Must-see Montréal museum exhibitions in summer 2019

Pop icons Thierry Mugler and Yoko Ono, famed Haida sculptor Bill Reid, and revered contemporary Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson are some of the artists whose works are on display in must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this summer 2019.

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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.

And the fashion world agrees: Thierry Mugler: Couturissime is an unqualified success.

Couturissime showcases Mugler’s work as a visionary couturier, director, photographer and perfumer. The fantastically-designed exhibition features more than 150 ensembles, most of them on display for the first time, created between 1973 and 2001, as well as many never-before seen accessories and stage costumes, clips and videos, archival documents and sketches.

The critically-hailed exhibition also features some 100 works by such famed fashion photographers David LaChapelle, Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton. In fact, Couturissime marks the Helmut Newton Foundation’s first participation in a foreign museum exhibition.

Couturissime runs to September 8.

Identity and humanity

The summer programming at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (known locally as the MAC) begins on June 20 with two new exhibitions.

One of Canada’s most celebrated and important contemporary artists, Rebecca Belmore began working as a performance artist in the late 1980s, and the immediacy and presence of that discipline continues to inform her work. The Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental retrospective looks back 30 years on her rich body of work, including sculptures, installations, photography and videos, some of which are based on performances. Themes in Belmore’s work include conflicts and issues related to climate change, access to water, land use, homelessness, and human migration and displacement.

Facing the Monumental runs at the MAC until October 6.

To complement the Rebecca Belmore exhibition, the MAC Collection: Nadia Myre, Chloé Lum and Yannick Desranleau features works from the museum’s permanent collection and new acquisitions that express something profoundly human as they tackle topics of desire, loss, resilience and knowledge.

In this exhibition, the photographs of Nadia Myre explore Indigenous identity while Montréal multidisciplinary visual artists Chloë Lum and Yannick Desranleau – also known on the international music scene as co-founders of the avant-rock group AIDS Wolf, for whom they have also produced award-winning concert posters under the name Séripop – tackle the theme of performativity in their art.

MAC Collection: Nadia Myre, Chloé Lum and Yannick Desranleau runs to August 4.

Rock and roll will never die

Also opening on June 20 at the MAC is contemporary Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s six-hour movie A Lot of Sorrow shot during a 2013 New York City performance by American indie rock band The National, who plays its 3-minute 35-second song Sorrow live onstage continuously for six hours.

The film screens at the MAC until July 28.

First Nations at the McCord

Over at the McCord Museum, the spotlight is on First Nations cultures, with Hannah Claus and an exhibition of Haida art.

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

The McCord Museum also presents SDING K'AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories. With more than 100 rare objects—most of them from the museum’s rich Indigenous Cultures collection—as well as works by contemporary artists, the exhibition immerses visitors in the Haida culture of yesterday and today, as they discover the beauty and priceless treasures of a culture that was almost wiped out in the late 19th century. The exhibition also features works by Bill Reid, one of the best known and most celebrated Haida artists.

Sding K’awXangs – Haida: Supernatural Stories runs until October 27.

The Polaroid Project

The McCord presents the internationally-acclaimed touring exhibition The Polaroid Project: At the Intersection of Art and Technology featuring the original works of some 100 of the most celebrated international artists of the 20th century, along with the Polaroid cameras they used.

The Polaroid Project runs from June 14 to September 15.

Avant-garde visionary Yoko Ono

The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain presents the art of pop icon Yoko Ono in its blockbuster exhibition LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM.

A Japanese-American multimedia artist born in Tokyo in 1933, Ono is a visionary artist whose storied career spans more than 50 years. Curated by Gunnar B. Kvaran and Cheryl Sim, the Ono retrospective is divided into two sections, “The instructions of Yoko Ono” and “The art of John and Yoko.”

The second part of the exhibition explores the collaborative projects for peace undertaken by Yoko Ono and her late husband John Lennon, including the iconic Montréal Bed-In of 1969. This part of the exhibition will feature stories from people who actually participated in the famed Bed-In 50 years ago, told in their own voices and words.

The Ono retrospective runs to September 15. Free admission.

From Paris to Montréal

Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and History Complex 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! French Gastronomy at its Best, which chronicles the history and secrets of French gastronomy and etiquette, from monarchs to artisans.

Dinner is served! French Gastronomy at its Best runs from June 5 to October 13.

Is ignorance bliss?

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.”

The new CCA exhibition Our Happy Life:  Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism explores the measurement of happiness in our lives, as well as the “paradigms that are shaping our present perception of place, giving new identity to the materials of the private space of our homes, reconceiving our working environments, and transforming development itself through the planning of our cities.”

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.”

Our Happy Life runs from May 8 to October 13.

World Press Photo Montréal

Often dubbed the Oscars of photojournalism, the World Press Photo is the most prestigious press photography contest on the planet. In 2019, the prizewinning images are divided into eight categories: Spot News, General News, Contemporary Issues, People, Environment, Nature, Sports and Long-Term Projects.

The hugely popular international touring exhibition (Montréal’s 30-day run drew a record-breaking 56,000 visitors in 2018) will be presented at Bonsecours Market in Old Montréal from August 28 to September 29.

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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