Must-see summer museum exhibitions in Montréal

Richard Burnett

Twentieth century icon Pablo Picasso, legendary Spanish haute couture fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga and the eternal Queens of Ancient Egypt are some of the must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this summer.

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Queens of Ancient Egypt

Travel back in time at the Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex where you will meet the remarkable women who became the Great Royal Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the pharaohs during the New Kingdom some 3,500 years ago.

The exhibition features more than 350 rare and precious artifacts, including monumental statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, frescos, sarcophagi, a mummy, funerary objects and jewelry related to such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut.

Thoughtfully laid out, the exhibition is divided into six “zones” that explore the diverse, influential and important roles that these queens – and women in general – played in Egyptian society. Animated projections created by Ubisoft also bring the exhibition to life.

Developed by Pointe-à-Callière in collaboration with Museo Egizio of Turin – home to the world’s second-largest collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, after the Cairo Museum – this must-see exhibition runs to November 4.

From Africa to the Americas

Visitors can reflect on the ‘decolonization of the colonial gaze’ and perceptions of identity, aesthetics and culture through two exhibitions presented side-by-side in a continuous layout at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA): From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present and Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art.

The Pablo Picasso exhibition explores changing views of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas from the end of the 19th century to the present day via the life and work of Picasso (1881-1973). Throughout the show, works by contemporary artists of African descent provide a counterpoint. The exhibition features 300 works and documents, including some 100 works by Picasso (30 of them being exhibited in Canada for the first time) – paintings, sculptures, ceramics and works on paper.

In a complementary layout, the Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art exhibition (included in the entrance fee) challenges preconceived notions of Blackness in Canada through the work of 11 contemporary artists: Sandra Brewster, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Chantal Gibson, Bushra Junaid, Charmaine Lurch, Esmaa Mohamoud, Michèle Pearson Clarke and Gordon Shadrach, as well as Montrealers Eddy Firmin a.k.a. Ano, Manuel Mathieu and Shanna Strauss. The artists express a multitude of viewpoints on the place of Canadians of African descent.

Both From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present and Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art run at the MMFA from May 12 to September 16.

The World of Cristóbal Balenciaga

Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895 – 1972) – legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in the North American premiere of Balenciaga - Master of Couture, a major fashion exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Revered by his contemporaries and future fashion designers alike, Cristóbal Balenciaga represents the pinnacle of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. His exquisite craftsmanship, pioneering use of fabrics and innovative cutting set the tone for the modernity of late 20th century fashion. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display, plus sketches, photographs and fabric samples contextualize the garments and patterns, and x-rays, toiles and film reveal details in their construction and making.

Balenciaga, Master of Couture runs at the McCord from June 15 to October 14.

Paris boutiques

Paris and Montréal are two of the world’s great French-speaking metropolises. But now you can also visit Paris while in Montréal, at the Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition at the Stewart Museum.

The exhibition 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 peak at a consumer society in the making. The exhibition runs to March 24, 2019.

The 2018 World Press Photo Contest

Since 1955, the World Press Photo Foundation has recognized the world’s best photographers and producers in an annual contest that drew 73,044 submitted images from 4,548 photographers from 125 countries for their 2018 edition. A group of internationally recognized professionals in the fields of photojournalism and documentary photography convened in Amsterdam to judge all entries. The prize-winning photographs and the best of the rest are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 100 locations in 45 countries, including at World Press Photo at Bonsecours Market from August 29 to September 30. The Montreal stop will also exhibit Alexandre Champagne’s photographs of the aftermath of the January 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

Architecture and Art

One of the most prominent international artists working in Canada today, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is the subject of Unstable Presence, a mid-career survey at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (known as “the MAC” by locals). Electronic artist Lozano-Hemmer develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. Unstable Presence runs at the MAC from May 24 to September 9.

Utopian 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.” Fifty years after the birth of the Italian radical movement, the CCA exhibition Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976 explores the Florentine radical scene and utopian architectural visions via the projects and archives of Florentine protagonists Archizoom, Remo Buti, 9999, Gianni Pettena, Superstudio, UFO, and Zziggurat – presented together for the first time in North America. Utopie Radicali runs at the CCA until October 7.

Cartoon Voyage

Children of all ages will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at DreamWorks Animation’s most celebrated animated films. Spend time with Shrek, Alex and the gang from Madagascar, Hiccup and Toothless from Dragons, Po from Kung Fu Panda and Eep from Croods, and others in this fully immersive adventure into the world of animation, featuring more than 400 original art objects and drawings in DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition at the Montreal Science Centre from May 10 to September 16.

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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