Must-see Montréal museum exhibitions in fall and winter 2018

Richard Burnett

Legendary American artist Alexander Calder and German artist and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt’s global sensation Manifesto, starring Cate Blanchett, are among many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this autumn and winter 2018.

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Radical inventor

The Alexander Calder - Radical Inventor exhibition at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is the first major Canadian retrospective of American painter and sculptor Alexander Calder (1898–1976), one of the great artists of the 20th century. Calder is especially beloved in Montréal where his monumental sculpture Trois disques – more often called Calder’s Man and created for Expo 67 – has become a Montréal icon.

The exhibition displays more than 100 works by Calder, a child prodigy who, as a young man during the 1920s, developed his art among the artistic and intellectual circles of the day, mingling in Paris with the international avant-garde, including such figures as Cocteau, Miró and Le Corbusier. By introducing the fourth dimension of time into sculpture, Calder transformed the way objects animate space, especially with his invention of the mobile.

The exhibition also has a section devoted to the sculpture Trois disques, a 22-metre stabile originally commissioned for Expo 67 and installed in Parc Jean-Drapeau. The Calder exhibition will feature the original maquette for the Montréal commission, as well as film footage of the sculpture being installed, and documents related to the World’s Fair.

Alexander Calder - Radical Inventor runs from September 21, 2018 to February 24, 2019.

The world of Cristóbal Balenciaga

Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972) – legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in Balenciaga - Master of couture, a major fashion exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Revered by his contemporaries and future fashion designers alike, Cristóbal Balenciaga represents the pinnacle of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. His exquisite craftsmanship, pioneering use of fabrics and innovative cutting set the tone for the modernity of late 20th century fashion. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display, plus sketches, photographs and fabric samples contextualize the garments and patterns, and x-rays, toiles and film reveal details in their construction and making.

A North American exclusive, Balenciaga - Master of Haute Couture closes on October 14. Given the enthusiastic response to the exhibition, the McCord is extending its opening hours exceptionally until 9 pm on Thursdays and Fridays during the last two weeks of the exhibition – on October 4, 5, 11 and 12.

Shadows without Borders

The McCord Museum’s interactive installation Shadows without Borders asks visitors to discover and reflect on exile. With flashlights, visitors will discover a series of shadow installations that bring to life fragments of the lives of refugees living in camps in Greece and Turkey.

Playing with shadow and light, visitors can highlight an object, a moment or a place, or cast them in darkness. The installation will evolve throughout its run as visitors – as well as refugees who have just arrived in Canada – add their own creations to express their own concept of home.

Shadows without Borders runs from November 21 to January 6, 2019.

Queens of Ancient Egypt

Travel back in time at the Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, where you will meet the remarkable women who became the Great Royal Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the pharaohs during the New Kingdom some 3,500 years ago.

The exhibition features more than 350 rare and precious artifacts, including monumental statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, frescos, sarcophagi, a mummy, funerary objects and jewelry related to such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut.

Developed by Pointe-à-Callière in collaboration with Museo Egizio of Turin – home to the world’s second-largest collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, after the Cairo Museum – Queens of Egypt runs up to November 4.

World of contemporary art

Performances, paintings, sculptures, video installations and artist manifestos are on the program this autumn at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, better known by Montrealers as “the MAC.”

Visitors will have the chance to discover a unique retrospective on Françoise Sullivan, the tremendous Québec artist who co-signed the Refus global manifesto; and to experience Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto featuring an extraordinary performance by actor Cate Blanchett playing 13 roles in a thirteen-channel immersive video installation that stands as a tribute to the tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos.

Manifesto has been mounted in more than a dozen cities around the world; its presentation in Montréal is only its second in North America, after the Park Avenue Armory in New York.

To bridge the Françoise Sullivan retrospective and the Manifesto exhibition, the MAC present Scores, a documentary exhibition presenting the original copies of historical artist manifestos. The exhibition is interspersed with three artworks by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Romany Eveleigh and Mathieu Beauséjour, which also highlight the importance of the materiality of the manifesto. 

All three exhibitions run at the MAC from October 20, 2018 to January 20, 2019.

From film to 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 “an international research institution operating from the fundamental premise that architecture is a public concern.”

The CCA’s new exhibition, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli, explores how different elements of film – images, storyboards, scripts and audio – were able to generate a new language for architecture in the work of Alessandro Poli, an Italian architect, designer, artist and member of Superstudio from 1970 to 1972.

The exhibition runs from September 21, 2018 to January 20, 2019.

Paris boutiques

Paris and Montréal are two of the world’s great French-speaking metropolises. But now you can also visit Paris while in Montréal, at the Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition at the Stewart Museum.

The exhibition showcases 18th-century Parisian boutiques in three renowned commercial districts in the City of Light: la Cité, la Ville and l’Université. Some 300 artifacts from the Stewart Museum’s permanent collection evoke the shops and merchants of 18th-century Paris, giving us a historical peek at a consumer society in the making.

Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques runs up to March 24, 2019.

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

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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