All About the Main and its Murals

Isa Tousignant

With the amazing artworks left by street-art fest Mural every June, St-Laurent Boulevard is a veritable open-air art gallery year-round. Pair that with scene-setting restaurants, nice bars, unique stand-alone shops and an incredibly rich history as Montréal’s main drag (St-Laurent separates the city into its east and west quarters), it’s fair to say no trip is complete without a walk up the Main. Make sure you spy these murals while you’re at it!

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Welcome to Chinatown

This mural in honour of the city’s Asian heritage is a worthy starting place for an art-seeing trek northward up the Main. Located on the southwestern corner of St-Laurent and René-Lévesque, it marks the northern limit of Chinatown and was created by two of the city’s most famous street artists: Heavyweight founder Gene Pendon and Bryan Beyung, funded by longstanding public art organization MU. Taste the neighbourhood’s Asian flavours at nearby restaurants Mai Xiang, where the soup dumplings are luscious, or Hoang Oanh – grab one of their all-dressed Vietnamese banh-mi to go for your walk.

Fries with that?

Mary Poppins gets special treatment in this mural wrapped around the upscale fast-food joint Jerry. The local chain owned by renowned chef Jérôme Ferrer asked internationally renowned local pop artist Antoine Tavaglione to paint this mural on the restaurant façade on the southeastern corner of St-Laurent and Sherbrooke during the 2016 Mural fest. Tavaglione loves to manipulate iconic characters from popular culture. Grab a Surf’n’Turf burger at Jerry while you’re there (the Angus patty comes dressed with chunks of lobster, coleslaw and melted cheddar), or grab a martini – or a serene night’s sleep – at the posh Hotel 10 right across the street.

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Parking lot gallery

We’ve found the HQ for street art in Montreal. Welcome to the Station 16 gallery’s backyard! The annual Mural festival is put on by LNDMRK, an art promotion organization related to this art gallery on St-Laurent near the corner of Prince-Arthur, which is why the parking lot at the back is filled with murals. From the stunning rainbow-coloured seashell/flower piece by Australian artist Meggs on the northwest wall to the super fun collage-style wall featuring a tiger head by Montréal’s own XRAY directly behind the gallery (you can’t miss it), this lot and the one across the street are a cornucopia for the eyes. Stop into Montréal-made leather goods store m0851 for another take on local artistry, then treat yourself to a pint and a McKibbins Original Curry Poutine at McKibbins Irish Pub before continuing on.

Hot diggity!

Nothing says fast food fun like a hot dog joint dressed up with multicoloured ice cream monsters with googly eyes. This mural on the façade of Dirty Dogs on the southwestern corner of St-Laurent and Guilbault is by American artist Buff Monster, who has a thing for weird anthropomorphized ice cream, which he sees as a metaphor for our fleeting time on earth. Look close enough and you’ll notice references to the seven deadly sins. Grab a dog while you’re here – there are seven veggie versions on the menu, and a mac & cheese poutine that’s famous. Thirsty? You’re mere feet away from the legendary Bifteck bar.

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Oldie but goodie

This old lady by Montréal artist collective ASHOP adds sass and colour to the southeastern corner of St-Laurent and Pine Avenue. With her Montréal-logo necklace and her spray-paint can in hand, she dresses the corner in a blanket of orange, blue and purple. Delicious Japanese nosh and sake cocktails await at Big in Japan around the corner (mmm ramen), while shoppers will want to check out the unique collection of eyewear at Main mainstay Harry Toulch and the street-wear stylings at ARTGANG St-Laurent across the street.

Olé! Olé!

This 2014 mural by Montréal artist Bryan Beyung and its dashing toreador makes homage to the Plateau’s Latin heritage. (It’s also a symbol of power and the conquering thereof.) Experience Latin goodness in a food way with some yummy quesadillas from Taqueria Mex across the street, or go more Middle-Eastern with a delicious salad plate and sandwich at Omnivore, whose wall on the northeastern corner of Marianne and St-Laurent wears this striking mural. Shoppers, check out the sleek clothing and great magazine selection at Ibiki.

Artsy loading dock

Montréal’s prettiest loading dock is without a doubt the Quai des Arts wall piece signed by En Masse. Located right across from the popular show-bar Casa del Popolo on the west side of St-Laurent near St-Joseph, this all black-and-white work from 2011 looks as fresh as ever and features the talent of 10 local artists. Stop into Casa for a bit of live music, or for a sit-down meal head to Aux Vivres (all vegan, all the time) or Robin des Bois, both across the street. Need to rest your weary feet? Get a pedicure (or better yet a full-body massage) at the beautiful Espace Nomad spa down the block.

Mile End murals

There are two murals across the street from each other on St-Laurent between St-Viateur and Bernard. The first is Cap Tourmente, by Stare (produced by ARTGANG) – it’s an abstract piece in yellows and raspberries that beautifies what was a desolate vacant lot.

Across the street, McLaren En Cinq Temps is a five-panel mural by Jason Cantoro and Muart that makes homage to famous Canadian animator Norman McLaren. It was produced by MU as part of their series honoring great Canadian artists. Speaking of great Montreal things, stop into YUL Designs for one of the best curated selection of local souvenirs in the city. If you’re hungry, Les Impertinentes nearby makes amazing open-faced sandwiches.

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant, blogger

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal’s eclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.