The critically-acclaimed blockbuster retrospective of Pink Floyd, which chronicles their music and the impact the band had on art and culture, debuted at London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in 2017. The exhibition has since travelled to Italy, Germany, Spain and the United States attracting more than 500,000 people. Its current residency at the massive Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal gallery in the heart of Griffintown runs to April 2.
Their mortal remains
The expansive and creatively laid out exhibition explores the band’s journey in chronological order starting from 1967. Each chapter of the Pink Floyd story is represented via 350 artifacts and objects collected over the years, including handwritten lyrics, musical instruments, letters, stage props, and original artworks – including the band’s iconic inflatable pink pig. Some of these items have long been held in storage facilities, film studios and in the personal collections of band members before being “dusted off” for this exhibition.
Via an intuitive audio guide system, visitors can also hear the music and voices of past and present members of Pink Floyd: Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason and David Gilmour. Curated by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell who worked with the band on many of their most famous album covers and works of art, Powell collaborated closely with Mason to create the exhibition which culminates in a visually and sonically astounding re-creation of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason’s last-ever performance together at Live 8.
Montréal, a historic city for Pink Floyd
The exhibition also pays tribute to Montréal where the band famously headlined the Olympic Stadium on July 6, 1977, in a notorious concert that drew almost 80,000 fans and led the band to compose the concept album The Wall. The seed for Roger Waters’ iconic 1979 masterpiece The Wall was planted when Waters infamously spat on a fan at that concert.
Forty years later, at the Opéra de Montréal’s world premiere of Another Brick In The Wall – The Opera, adapted from The Wall, Waters explained, “What I think happened was I was pissed off or disaffected about playing to a large number of people who – with all due respect to the population of Montréal – were completely drunk and not paying much attention to what was going on onstage.”
After that concert, Waters said, “I realized that I was at the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing, and I needed to express the fact that I didn’t feel human. And I wanted to feel human. And my response to that was to write a show that involved building a huge wall between me and the people I was trying to communicate with.”
At the Montreal launch of The Pink Floyd Exhibition, Mason said, “The problem with stadium shows is about engaging 80,000 people – you’re lucky if you engage maybe 70,000. There will always be a bunch playing frisbee and doing drugs. That of course was the great disconnect which became history, having an audience not quite understanding what the band set out to do. It just so happened that night in Montréal Roger really lost it.”
Mason says all surviving band members are extremely pleased with the exhibition which culminates with a re-creation of the very last performance of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason who reunited for Live 8 in July 2005. The final group hug became one of Live 8’s iconic images.
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains runs at Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal until April 2 2023. Tuesday, Wednesday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (last visit); Thursday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last visit); Friday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (last visit); Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (last visit); and Sunday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last visit). Tickets on sale at www.pinkfloydexhibition.com.