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.

Jean Paul Riopelle and the haute-couture of Christian Dior are among the many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this Spring 2021.

Note: Due to current public health directives, some businesses and attractions may be temporarily closed or may have reduced hours or services. We recommend that you call or visit their websites to get the most up-to-date information. For more details on the current situation in Montréal, click here.

Safety measures at all Montréal museums

Wearing a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory. Numerous measures have been put in place at all museums to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Safety precautions and directions for each museum are listed on their websites.

Riopelle at the MMFA

The MMFA exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures has been extended to September 12. It features some 175 works plus 200 documents and artifacts exploring Jean Paul Riopelle’s fascination with Canada’s nordicity. The exhibition sheds new light on the artist’s production from the 1950s to 1970s by tracing the travels and influences that nurtured his interest in northern landscapes and northern Indigenous communities. By highlighting the artist’s use of Indigenous themes and motifs, the exhibition raises the question of cultural appropriation and its evolution in our recent history.

This spring, the MMFA opens three new exhibitions that address important societal issues through the work of contemporary artists:

The Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet exhibition explores the relationship between humans and nature, and disruptions to the planet’s ecosystems caused by human intervention (runs to February 27, 2022).

Opening in April are two monographic exhibitions that spotlight two Montréal contemporary artists, Yann Pocreau, whose interest has turned to cosmology in his recent photography explorations (April 10 to August 1), and Caroline Monnet, whose work sensitively depicts the precarious living conditions experienced by Canada’s Indigenous communities (April 21 to August 1).

Continuing is the popular GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics exhibition which features more than 80 graphics from the MMFA’s collection, as well as from public and private collections in Canada (runs to May 2).

The boutique located at the end of the Riopelle exhibition is open, as are the museum boutique and bookstore. However, the following MMFA services are currently NOT available: the cloakroom, on-site audio guide rentals, the restaurant and café, workshops, guided tours and educational activities.

Visitors must absolutely book their tickets online and select the date and time of their visit. Tickets are date-time stamped to control the flow of visitors. This rule ensures public safety and allows visitors a more intimate exploration of the exhibition.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the MMFA to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Benvenuto a Montréal!

Pointe-à-Callière’s new Italian Montréal exhibition explores the rich heritage of Montréal’s Italian community from the late 19th century to the present day. More than 325 objects are on display, brought over from Italy or made here, on loan from 46 Italo-Montréal lenders and families, chronicling the journey of hundreds of thousands of Italo-Montrealers and their influence as one of Montréal’s oldest and largest immigrant cultural communities.

Created during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Italian Montréal exhibition has been laid out to comply with required physical distancing measures. The exhibition runs to January 9, 2022.

The exhibition A Railroad to Dreams continues to September 6. It explores the world of model trains and includes a rare gull-winged DeLorean like the one used in the film Back to the Future.

Families will also enjoy the entirely renewed permanent exhibition Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers?

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online before visiting the museum. Numerous measures have been put in place at Pointe-à-Callière to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Golden Age of haute couture

If you haven’t yet seen the McCord Museum’s blockbuster Christian Dior exhibition, you have only until September 26.

The eye-popping exhibition brings together more than 50 designs from the legendary Dior collection, circa 1947 to 1957, and explores the brilliance behind Dior’s dramatic creations that revived the entire Parisian haute couture industry after World War II. The exhibition showcases pieces from the Royal Ontario Museum’s extensive collection of Christian Dior couture, complemented by a dozen garments from the McCord’s Dress, Fashion and Textiles collection, plus loans from Dior Héritage, Paris.

McCord artist-in-residence Meryl McMaster shares her thoughts through large-scale photographs, videos and various sculptural object installations in her new There Once Was A Song exhibition (April 2 to August 15), while the world of iconic Québec cartoonist Serge Chapleau is explored – via 150 cartoons, sketches and original illustrations – in the critically-hailed Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist exhibition which runs until January 9, 2022.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the McCord to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.

OASIS immersion

OASIS immersion presents all-immersive temporary exhibitions inspired by the people, places and trends that shape our world, in its crowd-pleasing all-immersive 2,000 m2 (over 21,500 ft2 ) museum-like location on the ground floor of the Palais des congrès de Montréal.

Their premiere exhibition Inspirations features 105 laser projectors and 119 surround-sound speakers that transport visitors into the worlds of – among others – pianist and composer Alexandra Stréliski, millennial YouTuber Émile Roy, and such visionary architects as Zaha Hadid. Visitors will also relive Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques’ out of-this-world 58/59 Mission to the International Space Station.

Plan on at least 75 minutes for your tour of OASIS immersion which offers starting times every 20 minutes throughout the day. It is highly recommend to arrive onsite 10 minutes prior to your scheduled start, as indicated on your ticket. Also, portions of the exhibition are in French only.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the no-contact OASIS immersion to ensure the safety of visitors and employees, and ticket sales with fixed times are available exclusively via the OASIS immersion and TicketPro websites.

Locals at the MAC

The made-in-Québec exhibition La machine qui enseignait des airs aux oiseaux runs at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (a.k.a. the MAC) until April 25. The exhibition showcases 34 local artists mostly living and working in and around Montréal, and who have never (or rarely) shown at the MAC. The exhibition took shape after more than 80 visits to local artists’ studios to create an innovative show that reflects the tumultuous times we are currently experiencing.

World-renowned British artist John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation Vertigo Sea has been extended to April 18, while the Des horizons d’attente exhibition showcases 21 artists whose works – about political, feminist, social, spiritual, ecological and other issues – are being shown at the MAC for the first time, until September 19.

The MAC has implemented special measures to ensure the safety of its visitors and employees, as well as hygiene measures recognized and recommended by the Québec government.

Visitors must book their tickets and time slots online. The following services are currently not offered: coat check, live workshops, guided tours, group tours and children’s parties. The restaurant and boutique are also closed.

Avant-garde art at PHI

South Korean artist Lee Bae’s first major solo exhibition in Canada, Lee Bae: UNION continues at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art until June 20. The exhibition features more than 40 recent works that employ a range of approaches across figuration and abstraction, plus a large-scale installation that calls attention to the corporeality of Bae’s work and its ability to connect us to a soulful place.

Over at the PHI Centre, the Three Movements exhibition (March 31 to September 5) showcases multisensorial works and interactive installations by several artists –  including Quebecois artists Alexandra Stréliski, FouKi, Vincent Morisset and Felix & Paul Studios – who integrate the newest and most innovative technologies into their practice, such as extended reality (AR, VR, and Mixed Reality) to generative art that responds to movement. The tour lasts two hours from the time indicated on your ticket, departures start every hour from 11 am to 5 pm, and visitors must arrive 15 minutes before the check-in time on your ticket.

Also at the PHI centre, Parallel Lines explores works created by 10 Montréal artists – including Adam Basanta and Dayna McLeod – who participated in a 60-day virtual residency last year to reflect on the experience of confinement. The virtual project can now be experienced as a live physical journey until June 15. The tour lasts one hour, with hourly departures from 11 am to 5 pm.

PHI’s premises are designed and arranged to accommodate the public in a safe and comfortable environment, while numerous measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Canadian Centre for 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 international research institution that believes “architecture is a public concern.”

There are three current exhibitions: The Things Around Us: 51N4E and Rural Urban Framework in the Main Galleries, Eye Camera Window: Takashi Homma on Le Corbusier in the Octagonal Gallery, and Middleground: Siting Dispossession in the Hall Cases.

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.”

The CCA has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit in accordance with established health guidelines. Reservations for visits are required and each 90-minute timeslot is limited to eight people.

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 and their famed Biodôme which underwent a two-year overhaul completed in 2020. The Insectarium is currently under construction and slated to reopen later this year.

The new Biodôme is a comfortable family-oriented city escape for children of all ages, with a revitalized, multisensory and far more immersive experience taking visitors through the five ecosystems of the Americas. The Biodôme is a huge crowd-pleaser.

Purchasing fixed-time tickets online is highly recommended.  Also, read about the health measures in place before visiting any of the Space for Life museums.

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 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 revolution.

The temporary exhibition Montréal Landscapes ­– Power Corporation of Canada Artworks Collection features 30 paintings of Montréal by 15 artists, from one of the most important art collections in Canada. The exhibition has been extended  to September 6.  

The Château Ramezay welcomes visitors from 10 am to 4:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. No reservations required.

The museum has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit in accordance with established health guidelines. The museum’s cultural activities, guided tours and lecture program are on hold until further notice.

Our Lady of the Harbour

Visitors are transported back through time at the Marguerite Bourgeoys Historic Site, which 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 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.

Numerous measures are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. Free admission to the chapel.

Grévin wax museum

Located in the downtown Eaton Centre, the Grévin Montreal museum is home to 128 immaculately-crafted wax statues of famous celebrities, from Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods and Terry Fox, to such political figures as Barack Obama, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Nelson Mandela. Visitors can also mingle and take photos with the wax likenesses of dozens of global pop stars such as Céline Dion, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Justin Beiber and Montréal drag icon Mado Lamotte.

Grévin Montreal is open on Fridays-Saturdays-Sundays. Tickets available online or at the box office.

Numerous measures are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

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 25-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.

Numerous sanitary measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Wearing a mask or face covering is mandatory at all times – including on outdoor pathways – for everyone aged 10 years and older.

Écomusée du fier monde

Dedicated to exploring the daily lives of Montréal’s working class, the Écomusée du fier monde museum has until April 18 extended the run of its De Amherst à Atateken exhibition which traces the evolution of this major Montréal artery back to the 19th century.

The Produits Familex: From the Factory to Your Door exhibition documents the Familex household products used by Québec and Canadian families since 1928. Produits Familex runs to May 9.

The new Variations sur l’art d’ici exhibition (May 19 to 30) showcases artworks by more than 60 Québécois and Canadian artists, from emerging young talents to artists of national and international renown, such as Dominic Besner and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Free entrance. Exhibition presented in French only.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Écomusée du fier monde to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Heavenly architecture

The temporary exhibition Victor Bourgeau: A Bishop and his Architect continues at the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal until December 31.

Visitors will discover the work of Victor Bourgeau, principal architect of the Montréal Catholic diocese under the episcopate of Bishop Bourget. Bourgeau built more than 300 buildings in Québec, including Montréal’s renowned Grey Nuns’ convent, as well as the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal itself, in 1861. The exhibition focuses on the profession of architecture in the 19th century and explores the ecclesiastical heights of Bourgeau’s career.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM to 12 PM and from 1 PM to 5 PM. Numerous measures (read here, in French only) have been put in place at the Musée des Hospitalières to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Art Souterrain

Montréal’s Art Souterrain festival transforms the city’s famed Underground Pedestrian Network into a four-kilometre-long contemporary art gallery. From April 10 to 30, some 30 artists and performers from around the world are presenting contemporary artworks and performances related to the theme of Chronometry, in the four-kilometre Art Souterrain route that begins at the Montréal Convention Centre, and continues at the Centre de commerce mondial de Montréal, Place Victoria and the Édifice Jacques-Parizeau.

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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