Montréal celebrates Leonard Cohen

Richard Burnett

Leonard Cohen adored his hometown of Montréal, and Montrealers loved him back unconditionally. The mutual love affair was so passionate that Cohen himself authorized the much-anticipated international exhibition Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything presently showing at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.

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He’s Your Man

Co-curated by John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman, the Cohen exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal – known locally as “the MAC” – was inspired by the world of Leonard Cohen and the great themes of his life and work. This major exhibition is the first to be entirely devoted to the imagination and legacy of the iconic singer-songwriter, artist and poet.

“When we came up with the idea for this exhibition, we went to seek the agreement of Leonard Cohen, who was thrilled with the project and the angle we were proposing,” says Zeppetelli. “Given his recent death, our exhibition has taken on a new meaning. It has also become a tribute to this global star.”

The exhibition runs to April 9, 2018.

Also, the 12th edition of the Max and Iris Stern International Symposium (April 6 and 7, 2018) at the MAC will be devoted to Leonard Cohen.

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40 Artists from 10 Countries

Two years in the making, Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything features multidisciplinary artists, visual artists, performers, musicians, writers and filmmakers from around the world, all of whom have created brand-new works especially for this exhibition. There will also be a series of concerts and events to showcase the important literary and musical achievements of Cohen and the huge impact he had, especially on the music scene.

Lou Reed, when he inducted Cohen into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, described Cohen as belonging to the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.”

In this exhibition, the artists will explore the themes that marked Cohen’s life: darkness, light, religion, politics, love, desire, intimacy and poetry.

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Everybody Knows

Among the 18 new works of art in the exhibition is a new multi-channel video installation by South African artist Candice Breitz called I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen), which features diehard Cohen fans performing his 1988 album I’m Your Man with backing vocals by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male choir from the Westmount congregation that Cohen belonged to all his life.

Israeli film director Ari Folman has created a “Depression Box” which visitors can enter to confront the darkness and demons of depression, themes that weave throughout Cohen’s body of work; and Cohen’s longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson (she co-wrote Cohen’s classic track Everybody Knows) wrote the new song Goodbye Stranger – and filmed a music video – exclusively for this exhibition.

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A World of Music

Today, well over 2,000 renditions of Cohen’s songs have been recorded. This exhibition’s ambitious Listening to Leonard installation allows visitors to enjoy exclusively-recorded new cover versions of Cohen’s songs by local and international artists, including Ariane Moffatt with l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Chilly Gonzales and Jarvis Cocker with The Kaiser Quartett, Moby, The National, The Barr Brothers, Half Moon Run, Feist, Socalled and Quebec rock legend Jean Leloup.

The MAC, in collaboration with Pop Montréal, is also organizing a series of five concerts at the intimate Salle Gesù in which musicians and guest singers will perform five iconic Leonard Cohen albums: New Skin for the Old Ceremony on December 14 with Pierre Kwenders and Katie Moore; Songs from a Room on January 18, 2018, with Marie-Pierre Arthur and Laura Sauvage; The Future on February 15, 2018, with Dear Criminals and Un Blonde; and Songs of Leonard Cohen on March 28, 2018, with Cœur De Pirate and Ariane Moffatt.

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Visiting Leonard

Cohen’s musical roots are inextricably linked with his hometown of Montréal, of course, where he attended Herzliah High School (where his literary mentor, poet Irving Layton, was a teacher) and Westmount High (today home to the Leonard Cohen Poet-in-Residence program).

Cohen fans from around the world continue to pay their respects at his Plateau home located at 28 Rue Vallieres. Visitors can also observe two massive Leonard Cohen murals, the first on the side of the Cooper Building on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, the other on Crescent Street downtown.

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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