Fall 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 November 21, 2023.

Blockbuster exhibitions about Pop Art, the famed feminist collective Pussy Riot, and the International Space Station are among the many must-see expositions and retrospectives at Montréal museums this Autumn 2023.

Age of Union Centre

At the Age of Union Centre, a non-profit environmental alliance that works towards protecting the planet's threatened species and ecosystems, you can find temporary exhibitions such as "Focused on Nature" by Hussain Aga Khan, "Looking into the Future" by Katherine Takpannie, and "Where the Light Arises" by Mélanie O'Bomsawin. These presentations, along with the many projects that Age of Union supports, help fulfill its mission of supporting changemakers who work towards protecting the planet.


International Space Station

Filmed during NASA missions, the blockbuster immersive exhibition Space Explorers: THE INFINITE teleports visitors virtually 400 kilometres above Earth onto the International Space Station for an unforgettable journey into space. Wearing VR headsets, visitors experience life on the ISS as if you are really there, thanks to free-roaming virtual reality which gives visitors amazing access to personal moments filmed in cinematic 3D, 360° format by the eight astronauts who live on board. Space Explorers: THE INFINITE is located in the Old Port next door to the Montreal Science Centre. Children under 8 not admitted. 


Explore the MMFA

The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts in the Golden Square Mile presents the major touring exhibition Marisol: A Retrospective, the most comprehensive survey devoted to the groundbreaking artist (1930-2016). In addition to Marisol’s canonical works from the 1960s and 1970s and later projects, this retrospective includes examples of the artist’s source materials, sketches, studies and personal photographs to further illuminate her working methods, life and times. Runs from October 7 to January 21, 2024.



To mark the 100th year in the life of Françoise Sullivan – a figurehead of modern art and a pioneer of Quebec dance who was born in Montreal in 1923 –  the MMFA presents the Françoise Sullivan: “I let rhythms flow” exhibition of the artist’s recent paintings which explore the timeless themes of movement and light. Runs from November 1 to February 18, 2024.


Reliving the past

The exhibition Favourites! Our Collections on Display at the Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex in Old Montréal tells the story of Montréal one object at a time via 400 “favourite” objects selected from the thousands the Museum keeps preserved. Set against a theatrical backdrop, furniture, clothing, jewelry, toys, tools, books, maps, posters and iconography have been taken out of the storehouse to tell the story of the city and its inhabitants. Runs to January 7, 2024.

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.



The Pop of Life! Pop Art in the Collection of the MMFA showcases iconic works of Pop Art from the Museum’s collection, including creations that have rarely or never been shown. The exhibition brings together installations, sculptures, paintings, textiles, drawings and prints by Canadian artists associated with the Pop movement, such as Pierre Ayot, Edmund Alleyn, and Joyce Wieland, alongside their international contemporaries, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Eduardo Paolozzi. Runs to March 24, 2024.


Avant-garde art at PHI

The PHI Foundation in Old Montréal presents the JOUEZ/PLAY solo exhibition by Argentinian-born artist Rirkrit Tiravanija who is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of his generation. His work defies media-based description as it combines traditional object making, public and private performances, teaching, and other forms of public service and social action. Runs from November 3 to March 10, 2024.

The PHI Centre in Old Montréal presents Sex, Desire and Data, an interactive, multisensory experience that explores the connections between sexuality and technology. Extended to January 7, 2024.

The PHI Centre also presents New Media Pioneers, an exhibition about the works of Édouard Lock and Michel Lemieux, two trailblazers of digital and performing arts, in the Place des Arts Exhibition Room. Free admission. Runs to January 2, 2024.


Canada’s Michelangelo

After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italian-born master-glassmaker, painter-decorator, and fresco painter Guido Nincheri travelled to Boston in 1913, then moved to Montréal the following year, becoming the most prolific religious artist in Canada during the 20th century. Known as Canada’s Michelangelo, Nincheri (1885-1973) is celebrated in the Du profane au sacré exhibition at the Château Dufresne museum and historical site to mark the 50th anniversary of his passing. The temporary exhibition displays some 40 selected original works, archival documents, artefacts, and a video. Runs to June 30, 2024.


OASIS immersion

Canada’s largest indoor immersive attraction, OASIS immersion at the Palais des congrès de Montréal presents the transformé immersive exhibition where visitors 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.

Their VAN GOGH - Distorsion 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.

Their Sweet Folie immersive attraction is a zany and humourous celebration of imagination, creativity and wonder, and was created to entertain kids of all ages.

Click here for OASIS immersion schedules and tickets.


The MAC at Place Ville Marie

The Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia “anti-exhibition” at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal – widely known as The MAC (or “Le MAC” in French) – is Pussy Riot’s first survey exhibition, originally presented at Kling & Bang, an art space in Reykjavik.

Famed for protesting Vladimir Putin and tyranny in Russia, the feminist collective produces performances, music and videos characterized by provocative, politically charged lyrics and actions. Maria Alyokhina, creator of this exhibition, and other Pussy Riot members have been imprisoned and repressed in Russia. A North American premiere, this exhibition brings together the last ten years of Pussy Riot’s activism, documenting their actions and the punishments meted out by authorities. Runs from October 25 to March 10, 2024.

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. The new MAC will open in 2025. 

Click here for tickets and directions.



Also, with the Cinémathèque Québécoise, The MAC co-presents the 3D film Nightlife by Cyprien Gaillard, a visual narrative weaved around the life of African-American athlete Jesse Owens who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Shot entirely at night, the film is devoid of any human presence, yet evokes the political, social and environmental impacts of human actions and interactions. This nearly 15-minute work is presented in a loop at the Cinémathèque québécoise’s Norman-McLaren Theatre until November 5. Free admission. 3D glasses provided on-site.


Montréal today and yesterday

The McCord Stewart Museum in the Golden Square Mile presents the Mother Memory Cellophane installation by artist Séamus Gallagher inspired by the world premiere of DuPont’s nylon stockings at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Runs to February 4, 2024.



Montrealers and lovers of Montréal will adore the Becoming Montreal: The 1800s Painted by Duncan exhibition which displays more than 100 watercolours by James Duncan who documented the colonial city’s 19th century evolution during a remarkable 50-year career, producing panoramic views that predate the invention of photography. This first retrospective of Duncan’s work reintroduces the public to a painter who was quickly forgotten after his death. Duncan’s body of work lovingly captures the city and its people. Visitors will recognize many of the landmarks captured in his paintings. The McCord has also published the exhibition’s superb accompanying book James Duncan (1806-1881) – Painter of Montreal, the first monograph dedicated to Duncan, giving the painter his just due at long last. The exhibition runs to April 21, 2024.

The exhibition Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy brings together for the first time 40 wampum necklaces, cultural goods of great diplomatic significance to many Native communities of northeastern North America. Runs from October 20 to March 10, 2024.

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 Lives of Documents—Photography as Project is the first of a trilogy of research and exhibition projects produced by the CCA on the medium of photography—between work of art, research tool, and document—as a means to investigate the built environment. Runs to April 7, 2024.

The Far from Nostalgia: The Letters of Amancio Williams exhibition about the Argentinian architect runs from October 12 to January 21, 2024.

File Under: Law and Policy presents a range of documents—library materials, project research, administrative records, correspondence and more—to offer a close reading of legal negotiations by architects, landscape architects and planners. The exhibition is on display in the CCA Hallcases until November 26.

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 Lifecomprises the Botanical Garden,Planetarium, the Biosphère, Insectariumand 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 immersive exhibition Riopelle - A Bird Wild and Free which focuses on the final period of artist Jean-Paul Riopelle’s life and work when he lived in L’Isle-aux-Grues on the St. Lawrence River. Discover the majestic landscapes and the flights of white geese that inspired Riopelle, and catch a glimpse of his studio. Runs to May 5, 2024.

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.


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. They are closed on December 25.


Montréal Science Centre

The children-friendly permanent exhibitions at the Montréal Science Centre in the Old Port of Montréal are all open, while its IMAX cinema screens films for all ages, including Animal Kingdom 3D: A Tale of Six Families. 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 Ramezayin 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. 

The temporary exhibition Québec City Landscapes runs until January 6, 2024. 

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 historic site is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm until October 15, then from 11 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays) beginning October 16. 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.



Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition (November 3 to December 30) explores the history of the famed cathedral, from the laying of the foundation stone in 1163 to the current restoration project, and the work of its builders from the past to the present day. To navigate the exhibition, visitors use a HistoPad and scan the 21 “Doors of time” to embark on a journey through space and history. The experience runs 60 to 90 minutes.


Écomusée du fier monde

Dedicated to exploring the history of Montréal’s working class, the Écomusée du fier monde 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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