Winter exhibitions at Montréal museums

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

This article was updated on February 24, 2021.

Jean Paul Riopelle and the haute-couture of Christian Dior are among the many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this Winter 2021.

Note: Due to current public health directives, some businesses and attractions may be temporarily closed or may have reduced hours or services. We recommend that you call or visit their websites to get the most up-to-date information. For more details on the current situation in Montréal, click here.

Safety measures at all Montréal museums

Wearing a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory. Numerous measures have been put in place at all museums to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Safety precautions and directions for each museum are clearly listed in each entry below. 

Riopelle at the MMFA

The MMFA exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures features some 175 works plus 200 documents and artifacts exploring Jean Paul Riopelle’s fascination with Canada’s nordicity. The exhibition sheds new light on the artist’s production from the 1950s to 1970s by tracing the travels and influences that nurtured his interest in northern landscapes and northern Indigenous communities. By highlighting the artist’s use of Indigenous themes and motifs, the exhibition raises the question of cultural appropriation and its evolution in our recent history. The exhibition has been extended to May 2.

Also of note: Manuel Mathieu: Survivance is multidisciplinary artist Mathieu’s first solo exhibition at a North American museum (runs to March 28), the Yehouda Chaki: Mi Makir; A Search for the Missing installation marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camp in 1945 (runs to March 14), and GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics features more than 80 graphics from the MMFA’s collection, as well as from public and private collections in Canada (runs to May 2).

The boutique located at the end of the Riopelle exhibition is open. The museum boutique and bookstore will open starting February 25, Thursday to Sunday

The following MMFA services are currently NOT available: the cloakroom, on-site audio guide rentals, the restaurant and café, workshops, guided tours and educational activities. Also, the museum’s permanent collections are closed until further notice.

Visitors must absolutely book their tickets online and select the date and time of their visit. Tickets are date-time stamped to control the flow of visitors. This rule ensures public safety and allows visitors a more intimate exploration of the exhibition.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the MMFA to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The MMFA reopens on February 11.

All Aboard!

The new Pointe-à-Callière exhibition A Railroad to Dreams explores the world of model trains. The exhibition — which runs to September 6 — includes a rare gull-winged DeLorean like the one used in the film Back to the Future.

Families will also enjoy the entirely renewed permanent exhibition Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers?

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online before visiting the museum. Numerous measures have been put in place at Pointe-à-Callière to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Pointe-à-Callière reopens on February 11.

The Golden Age of haute couture

The McCord Museum’s blockbuster Christian Dior exhibition brings together more than 50 designs from the legendary Dior collection, circa 1947 to 1957. The exhibition explores the brilliance behind Dior’s dramatic creations that revived the entire Parisian haute couture industry after World War II. The exhibition features pieces from the Royal Ontario Museum’s extensive collection of Christian Dior couture, complemented by a dozen garments from the McCord’s Dress, Fashion and Textiles collection and loans from Dior Héritage, Paris. The exhibition has been extended to Spring 2021.

The McCord also explores the world of iconic Québec cartoonist Serge Chapleau in the critically-hailed Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist exhibition which features more than 150 cartoons, sketches and original illustrations. Meanwhile, the Griffintown – Evolving Montreal exhibition by Montréal photographer Robert Walker also continues. The McCord have not announced new end dates for both exhibitions.  

Numerous measures have been put in place at the McCord to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. It is recommended you purchase your tickets online. Due to the government-imposed curfew, Wednesday nights are cancelled until further notice.

The McCord reopens on February 11.

Locals at the MAC

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (a.k.a. the MAC) is back in a big way: all their exhibition rooms are reopening with four exhibitions. 

The MAC’s made-in-Québec exhibition La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux presents the work of 34 local artists, mostly living and working in and around Montréal, and who have never (or rarely) shown at the MAC. The exhibition took shape after more than 80 visits to local artists’ studios to create an innovative show that reflects the tumultuous times we are currently experiencing. The exhibition runs to April 25.

Other highlights this season: the MAC presents world-renowned British artist John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation Vertigo Sea (extended to April 4), and Des horizons d’attente showcases 21 artists whose works, recently acquired by the MAC, are being shown here for the first time. These artworks speak of political, feminist, social, aesthetic, material, conceptual, spiritual, ecological, poetic, linguistic and identity-related concerns specific to our time (runs to September 19).

The MAC also presents a selection of works from the MAC collection, curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator.

The MAC has implemented special measures to ensure the safety of its visitors and employees, as well as hygiene measures recognized and recommended by the Québec government.

Visitors must book their tickets and time slots online. The following services are currently not offered: coat check, workshops, guided tours, group tours and children’s parties. The restaurant and boutique are also closed.

The MAC reopens on February 10.

Avant-garde art at PHI

The PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art presents the exhibition Lee Bae: UNION, South Koream artist Lee Bae’s first major solo exhibition in Canada. The exhibition features more than 40 recent works that employ a range of approaches across figuration and abstraction, plus a large-scale installation that calls attention to the corporeality of Bae’s work and its ability to connect us to a soulful place.

The premises are designed and arranged to accommodate the public in a safe and comfortable environment, while numerous measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Foundation opens on February 24 and the exhibition runs to June 20.

Canadian Centre for Architecture

The Canadian Centre for Architecture is not just an architectural jewel in the heart of downtown Montréal, but a world-renowned museum of architecture and international research institution that believes “architecture is a public concern.”

There are three new exhibitions: The Things Around Us: 51N4E and Rural Urban Framework in the Main Galleries, Eye Camera Window: Takashi Homma on Le Corbusier in the Octagonal Gallery, and Middleground: Siting Dispossession in the Hall Cases.

As CCA founder Phyllis Lambert says, “We’re not a museum that puts things out and says, ‘This is architecture.’ We try to make people think.”

The CCA has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit in accordance with established health guidelines.

The CCA reopens on February 10.

Space for Life museums

Children of all ages can discover new worlds at the Montréal Space for Life, the largest natural sciences museum complex in Canada, which comprises the Botanical Garden, Planetarium, Insectarium and Biodôme.

After a two-year overhaul completed in 2020, the Biodôme reopens with a revitalized, multisensory and far more immersive experience taking visitors through the five ecosystems of the Americas. The Biodôme is a comfortable family-oriented city escape for children of all ages.

Purchasing fixed-time tickets online is highly recommended.  Also, read about the health measures in place before visiting any of the Space for Life museums.

The Insectarium is still under construction and the Planetarium stays closed, but the Botanical Garden and Biodôme reopen on February 8.

Château Ramezay – Historic Site and Museum of Montréal

Originally built in 1705 by Montréal’s then-governor Claude de Ramezay as his personal residence, the Château Ramezay is the oldest private historical museum in Québec. Permanent and seasonal exhibitions attest to the far-reaching history of Montréal, but none so much as the Château Ramezay itself, which served as the Canadian headquarters of the American Revolutionary Army in 1775-1776, and where Benjamin Franklin stayed when he tried to persuade Montréal to join the revolution.

The temporary exhibition Montréal Landscapes ­– Power Corporation of Canada Artworks Collection features 30 paintings of Montréal by 15 artists, from one of the most important art collections in Canada. The exhibition has been extended  to September 6.  

The museum has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit in accordance with established health guidelines. The museum’s cultural activities, guided tours and lecture program are on hold until further notice.

The Château Ramezay reopens on Saturdays and Sundays beginning on February 20. It will also open daily, exceptionally, from February 27 to March 7 for Spring Break.

Our Lady of the Harbour

Visitors are transported back through time at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site, which houses the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours in the heart of Old Montréal.

Built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel, the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site houses a museum dedicated to Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, the Frenchwoman who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montréal and was the colony’s first teacher back in 1653 (Bourgeoys was canonized by the Vatican in 1982). Bourgeoys is buried in the chapel.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours chapel is also known as the “Sailor’s Church” not just because it overlooks the harbour, but because it was famed in the 19th century for being a pilgrimage site for sailors who arrived in the Old Port. 

Visitors can climb the chapel’s belvedere to join the “angels of Ville-Marie” and enjoy spectacular views of the Old Port and Old Montréal, as well as visit the permanent Meet Marguerite! exhibition exploring Bourgeoys’ personal saga and legacy.

All Québec government-prescribed health precautions are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. Free admission to the chapel.

The Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site reopens on February 9.

Grévin wax museum

Located in the downtown Eaton Centre, the Grévin Montreal museum is home to 128 immaculately-crafted wax statues of famous celebrities, from Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods and Terry Fox, to such political figures as Barack Obama, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Nelson Mandela. Visitors can also mingle and take photos with the wax likenesses of dozens of global pop stars such as Céline Dion, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Justin Bieber and Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte.

Numerous measures have been put in place at Grévin Montréal to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Grévin Montréal reopens on February 26.

The Ecomuseum Zoo

The Ecomuseum Zoo is the only outdoor zoo on the island of Montréal and offers visitors a unique and natural experience to observe 115 animal species – including Black Bears, Woodland Caribou, River Otters, Turtles, Canada Lynx and Eagles – found in Québec’s Saint Lawrence Valley. The popular 11-hectare zoo located in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is a 25-minute drive from downtown Montréal. There is also free on-site parking for all guests.

Tickets must be purchased online in advance and wearing a mask and/or face covering is mandatory at all times, including on outdoor pathways for everyone over 10-years-old.

The Ecomuseum Zoo reopens on February 12. It will be open from Wednesday to Sunday through February, then daily beginning on March 1.

Écomusée du fier monde

Dedicated to exploring the daily lives of Montréal’s working class, the Écomusée du fier monde museum presents two new exhibitions: on the first anniversary of the renaming of Amherst Street to Atateken, De Amherst à Atateken (February 10 to March 28) traces the evolution of this major Montréal artery back to the 19th century, while Produits Familex: From the Factory to Your Door (February 10 to May 9) documents the Familex household products used by Québec and Canadian families since 1928.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Écomusée du fier monde to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Écomusée du fier monde reopens on February 10.

Heavenly architecture

The temporary exhibition Victor Bourgeau: A Bishop and his Architect continues at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Visitors will discover the work of Victor Bourgeau, principal architect of the Montréal Catholic diocese under the episcopate of Bishop Bourget. Bourgeau built more than 200 buildings in Québec, including Montréal’s renowned Grey Nuns’ convent, as well as the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal itself, in 1861. The exhibition focuses on the profession of architecture in the 19th century and explores the ecclesiastical heights of Bourgeau’s career.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Musée des Hospitalières to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. A maximum of 20 visitors are allowed in the museum at the same time.

The Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal reopens on February 10. The museum’s schedule has also changed: they are now open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 12 PM and from 1 PM to 5 PM.

All-immersive experience

OASIS immersion presents all-immersive temporary exhibitions inspired by the people, places and trends that shape our world, in its brand-new all-immersive 2,000 m2 (over 21,500 ft2) museum-like location on the ground floor of the Palais des congrès de Montréal. The walkable, no-contact experience features three immersive galleries, two dazzling light installations and a lounge area with café and boutique.

Its 105 laser projectors and 119 surround-sound speakers transport visitors into the worlds of – among others – pianist and composer Alexandra Stréliski, millennial YouTuber Émile Roy, and visionary architects such as Zaha Hadid. Visitors will also relive Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques’s out-of-this-world 58/59 Mission to the International Space Station. The premiere exhibition “Inspirations” launches on February 25.

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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