Spring 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 March 20, 2023.

Blockbuster exhibitions about the splendours of Ancient Egypt and Indigenous Colombia are among the many must-see expositions and retrospectives at Montréal museums this Spring 2023.

Splendours of Ancient Egypt

A North American exclusive, the grandiose exhibition Egypt. Three Millenia on the Nile opens at the Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex on April 20. Displaying more than 300 objects from the prestigious collection of the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy, the immersive exhibition covers 3,000 years of history from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the Roman conquest. Visitors will see ancient work tools, everyday items and jewelry alongside monumental sculptures and statues, sarcophagi, stelae and mummies. The exhibition puts a human face on Ancient Egypt whose backbone was formed by the majestic Nile River.

Families will also enjoy Pointe-à-Callière’s permanent Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers? interactive exhibition.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online before visiting the museum.

Explore the MMFA

Over at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts in the Golden Square Mile, the exhibition Parall(elles): A History of Women in Design celebrates the instrumental role women have played in the world of design through art works and objects dating from the mid-19th century onwards. Includes the unique prototype Fancy Free Corvette designed by Ruth Glennie in 1958. Runs to May 28.

Nalini Malani: Crossing Boundaries (March 23 to August 20) is the first Canadian solo exhibition of the Indian artist and video art pioneer Nalini Malani whose work for over five decades has given voice to marginalized people, especially women. This exhibition features her nine-channel video installation Can You Hear Me?

Wolves: The Art of Dempsey Bob (May 18 to September 10) is the first career retrospective of the internationally-renowned master carver and sculptor from the Northwest Coast of Canada. Some 60 works on display – masks, sculptures and textile creations – reflect his Tahltan and Tlingit heritage.

The blockbuster Portable Universe: Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia exhibition (June 3 to October 1) brings together 400 works of Colombian art dating from about 1500 BCE to the present day. The exhibition features some of the most remarkable artworks ever made in this region, including intricately cast gold pendants and hammered gold masks.

Avant-garde art at PHI

The PHI Centre in Old Montréal presents Chaos & Memories (March 22 to June 11), an exhibition composed of two parts: a space dedicated to virtual reality works from Taiwan – many presented at the last Venice Biennale – and an immersive installation that questions our relationship with nature, the environment and its shifting landscapes.

The neighbouring PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art presents the contemporary art group exhibition Terms of Use that explores the impact of technologies on the definition, construction and (re)framing of individual and collective selves, as we grapple with living simultaneously online and AFK (away from keyboard). Runs to July 9. Free admission.

OASIS immersion

Canada’s largest indoor immersive attraction, OASIS immersion at the Palais des congrès de Montréal presents the world premiere of its new transformé immersive exhibition where visitors will experience a fascinating tribute to the virtual reality industry. The walkthrough experience has been developed from works originally designed for virtual reality headsets, featuring eight stories inspired by real events revolving around the dual themes of courage and empathy.

Meanwhile, their VAN GOGH - Distorsion has been extended to May 21. This immersive exhibition takes visitors on a bright and colourful immersive journey through some 225 paintings, drawings and sketches by the Dutch master Van Gogh. Fitted with 119 surround-sound speakers and 105 laser projectors creating 360° projections on the walls and floors of three galleries, the experience runs approximately 65 minutes.

Departures with limited places are available every 20 minutes. Tickets available via oasis.im. It is highly recommend to arrive onsite 10 minutes prior to your scheduled start, as indicated on your ticket.


Impressionist masters

The acclaimed Holographic 3D immersive experience Lasting Impressions / Le Café des Impressionnistes at Le Studio-Cabaret in Espace St-Denis runs to April 24. More than 100 classic paintings by such Impressionist masters as Monet, Degas and Renoir come to life on a giant ultra-high-definition screen.

The MAC at Place Ville Marie

The Nelson Henricks exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal – widely known as The MAC (or “Le MAC” in French) – presents the immersive artworks of the renowned Montréal artist, including two previously unseen works produced specially for the occasion and premièring at the MAC. The exhibition runs to April 10.

As part of his exhibition, Henricks has carefully curated a program of 15 Screen Tests produced by Andy Warhol between 1964 and 1966. They screen until April 10.

All MAC contemporary art exhibitions are presented at the MAC’s temporary location in the Place Ville Marie shopping mall during the museum’s current $57-million renovation expected to be completed in 2024. The new MAC will open in 2025. 

Click here for tickets and directions.


Montréal today and yesterday

The McCord Stewart Museum in the Golden Square Mile continues its program of photographic commissions titled Evolving Montréal with photographer and film director Joannie Lafrenière who takes viewers on an immersive photographic and cinematographic journey of the HOMA neighbourhood in the exhibition Hochelaga-Maisonneuve – Evolving Montréal (March 31 to September 10).

As part of its Artist-in-Residence program, the Swallowing Mountains exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Karen Tam explores the relative silence in public records and historical accounts of women in Montréal’s Chinatown in the 19th and 20th centuries. Runs to August 13.

Opening on June 2, the exhibition Becoming Montreal: The 1800s Painted by Duncan showcases the fascinating watercolours of James Duncan (1806–1881) who documented the colonial city’s development during his 50-year career, producing panoramic views that predate the invention of photography. Duncan’s body of work is a living memory of Montréal from 1830 to 1880.

Art and Nature is the first major retrospective devoted to Alexander Henderson’s Canadian wilderness photographs, taken from the McCord archives which are home to the largest collection of work by the renowned photographer (1831-1913). Runs to April 16.

The permanent exhibition Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience pulls together 100 carefully selected objects from the museum’s Indigenous Cultures permanent collection.


The art of architecture

The Canadian Centre for Architecture in Shaughnessy Village 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.” 

The temporary exhibition كیف لا نغرق في السراب / To Remain in the No Longer looks at how architecture operates in the failed state of Lebanon (runs to May 28) while Ange Loft’s installation project Visibly Iroquoian is on view in various locations throughout the CCA building until December 23.

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.” 


Space for Life museums

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

In the Planétarium, the domes of the Chaos and Milky Way theatres are equipped with state-of-the-art laser projectors for an ultra-HD experience. The Planétarium offers a double bill each day. 

Over at the Botanical Garden, in addition to the carnivorous plants, visitors can admire superb passionflowers and begonias in full bloom, and see fruit growing on banana, carambola, jackfruit and papaya trees, daily in the greenhouses.

The Biosphere environmental museum presents the temporary exhibition Sometimes We Look, Sometimes We See by Chinese-Canadian artist Hua Jin is a photographic series about nature during the first year of the COVID pandemic. Runs to May 28.

The Biodôme takes visitors through the five ecosystems of the Americas. The Biodôme is a huge crowd-pleaser. 

The renovated Insectarium is the first museum in North America where you can observe so many species of insects live – some roaming freely – and naturalized in one place. 

Purchasing fixed-time tickets online is highly recommended.


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 30-minute drive from downtown Montréal. There is also free on-site parking for all guests. 

The Ecomuseum Zoo is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. The last admission of the day is at 4 PM. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. 


Montréal Science Centre

The educational and entertaining exhibition Our Climate Quest: Small Steps to Big Change at the Montréal Science Centre in the Old Port of Montréal shows young people (ages 4 to 18) how to become a true protector of the environment! Four thematic zones offer immersive, interactive and entertaining activities designed to empower youth to make sustainable choices in the fight against climate change. Runs to April 9.

The children-friendly permanent exhibitions at the Montréal Science Centre are all open, while its IMAX cinema screens films for all ages. Click here for the screening schedules of the latest films. 


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 in Old Montréal 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 American revolution. 

Temporary exhibitions currently on view: Inuit Worlds – The Collection of Saladin d’Anglure features 40 Inuit objects, and Roald Amundsen – Lessons from the Arctictells the journey of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Both exhibitions run to April 9. 

The Château Ramezay welcomes visitors daily from 10 am to 5 pm. No reservations required. 


Our Lady of the Harbour

Visitors are transported back through time at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Sitewhich 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 Port (now 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.  

The temporary exhibition Nuns, Teachers AND... Scientists! tells how beginning in the 19th century the Ursuline sisters and the Congrégation de Notre-Dame created innovative programs to teach science to their female students. Runs to April 10.

The historic site is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. Free admission to the chapel.


Heavenly exhibition

Created by the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal to mark the bicentennial year of birth of Mount Royal Park’s creator, famed American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), the temporary exhibition Our Mountain: Memories of Mount Royal tells the 5,000-year-old story of Montréal’s iconic “mountain” located in the heart of the city. Runs to August 31, 2024.

The permanent exhibitionat the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal explores the 300-year history of Montréal’s first hospital, Hôtel-Dieu, along with that of the Hospitallers of Saint Joseph, a pioneering community of women who laid the foundations of the healthcare system, in Montréal and elsewhere in Canada.

Located in the trendy Plateau Mont-Royal, the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 12 PM and from 1 PM to 5 PM.


Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal

Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal is a cutting-edge art centre located in the hip, urban Griffintown neighbourhood, and promotes and develops contemporary Canadian art by exhibiting local artists.

Temporary exhibitions currently on display include the massive, internationally-acclaimed Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains created by the iconic British rock band (runs to April 2) and Jen Mann: Girls on Film, an exploration of identity by the Canadian multidisciplinary artist (runs to April 23).


Écomusée du fier monde

Dedicated to exploring the history of Montréal’s working class, the Écomusée du fier mondemuseum is open from Wednesday to Sunday. 

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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