Must-see Montréal museum exhibitions in winter and spring 2019

This article was updated on March 4, 2019.

Fashion icon Thierry Mugler, renowned Cree painter Kent Monkman, legendary American artist Alexander Calder and German artist/filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt’s global sensation Manifesto starring movie star Cate Blanchett are among the many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this winter and spring 2019.

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Artist manifestos are on the program at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (better known by Montrealers as “the MAC”), notably Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto featuring an extraordinary performance by actor Cate Blanchett playing thirteen roles in a thirteen-channel immersive video installation that stands as a tribute to the tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos. Manifesto has been mounted in more than a dozen cities around the world; its presentation in Montréal is only its second in North America, after the Park Avenue Armory in New York.

Visitors at the MAC also have the chance to discover a unique retrospective about Françoise Sullivan, the Québec artist who co-signed the Refus global manifesto; as well as check out the Scores documentary exhibition presenting original copies of historical artist manifestos.

All three exhibitions run until January 20, 2019. The MAC will then close for renovations.

Radical Inventor

The MMFA’s Alexander Calder - Radical Inventor exhibition is the first major Canadian retrospective of the 20th-century American artist who is especially beloved in Montréal, the city where his monumental sculpture Trois disques – better known as Calder’s Man and created for Expo 67 – has become a Montréal icon.

The exhibition displays more than 100 works by Calder, a child prodigy who, as a young man during the 1920s, developed his art in the artistic and intellectual circles of the day, mingling in Paris with the international avant-garde including such figures as Cocteau, Miró and Le Corbusier. By introducing the fourth dimension of time into sculpture, Calder transformed the way objects animate space, especially with his invention of the mobile.

Alexander Calder - Radical Inventor continues until February 24, 2019.

From Paris to Montréal

Pointe-à-Callière – Museum of Archaeology and History in Old Montréal is the largest archaeology museum in Canada, built on the historic site where the city was founded in 1642. In addition to its permanent multimedia exhibitions, Pointe-à-Callière explores Montréal’s French culinary roots in the new exhibition Dinner is served! The story of French cuisine, which chronicles the history and secrets of French gastronomy and etiquette, from monarchs to artisans.

Dinner is served! The story of French cuisine runs from May 17 to October 2019.

Meanwhile, over at the Stewart Museum, you can visit Paris while in Montréal, at the Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition, which showcases 18th-century Parisian boutiques in three renowned commercial districts in the City of Light: la Cité, la Ville and l’Université. Some 300 artifacts from the Stewart Museum’s permanent collection evoke the shops and merchants of 18th-century Paris, giving us a historical peek at a consumer society in the making.

Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques runs up to March 24, 2019.

Strike a pose

The exhibition Of Individuals and Places: Photographs from the Lazare Collection brings together some 100 photographs by major Canadian and international artists, from Montréal collector Jack Lazare’s prized photography collection. Photographers here include Edward Burtynsky, Astrid Kruse Jensen, Isaac Julien and the legendary and influential Julia Margaret Cameron.

Of Individuals and Places runs at the MMFA from November 28, 2018 to April 28, 2019.


The return of Kent Monkman

Over at the McCord Museum, beginning in 2019, the spotlight will focus on First Nations Cultures, with Kent Monkman, Hannah Claus and an exhibition of Haida art.

The Kent Monkman – Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience exhibition showcases the McCord return of the internationally-acclaimed Cree artist who was the McCord’s artist-in-residence in 2013.

“My gay identity is usually at the forefront of my work – I never shy away from it,” Monkman told me at the time, and that is also true of this exhibition, which features the artist’s spiritual alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, a silent witness to key moments in the history of the First Peoples. Monkman’s paintings depict the devastating effects of colonialism on the Indigenous peoples of Canada.

The Monkman exhibition runs from February 8 to May 5, 2019.

A multidisciplinary visual artist of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) descent, Hannah Claus is the McCord’s current artist-in-residence, and she will exhibit her work from March 7 to August 11, 2019.

The McCord will also present its Haida Art Exhibition featuring a selection of rare historical Haida objets d’art from the museum’s collections, on display from April 19 to October 27, 2019.

From film to 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 an “international research institution operating from the fundamental premise that architecture is a public concern.”

The CCA exhibition Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores how different elements of film – images, storyboards, scripts and audio – were able to generate a new language for architecture in the work of Alessandro Poli, the Italian architect, designer, artist and member of Superstudio from 1970 to 1972.

The exhibition has been extended to May 26, 2019.

Catwalk to the museum

Following the enormous success of its blockbuster exhibitions about Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts pursues its ongoing fascination with the world of fashion with the first-ever career retrospective of global fashion icon Thierry Mugler, the Frenchman who has dressed everybody from Diana Ross and David Bowie to Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli, not to mention Québec icons Céline Dion and Diane Dufresne.

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime world-premieres at the MMFA on March 2, 2019, bringing together more than 130 outfits created between 1973 and 2001, as well as unseen archive documents and photos by celebrity artists and photographers. The exhibition will explore Mugler the visionary couturier, director, photographer and perfumer, and will explain his audacious choices, such as using innovative materials in high fashion such as metal, fake fur, vinyl and latex.

Says Mugler, “I have always been fascinated by the most beautiful animal on the Earth: the human being. I have used all of the tools at my disposal to sublimate this creature: fashion, shows, perfumes, photography, video…”

The much-anticipated Mugler exhibition runs from March 2 to September 8, 2019.

Avant-garde visionary Yoko Ono

The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain, located in Old Montréal, presents the hotly-anticipated Yoko Ono solo exhibition LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM, which runs from April 25 to September 15.

Ono is a visionary, pioneering artist whose career spans more than 50 years. DHC/ART states, “This exhibition wishes to impart Yoko Ono’s massive impact on contemporary art practices, art reception, and activism through art.”

The exhibition will also explore the collaborative projects for peace undertaken by Yoko Ono and her late husband John Lennon.

Free admission.

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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