The Underground City Becomes an Art Gallery

Isa Tousignant

Get ready! March 3, 2018 marks the start of the 10th edition of Art Souterrain, when Montréal’s famous Underground City becomes a living art gallery. Running until March 25, this special anniversary edition unites 98 projects by 94 Montréal, Canadian and international artists all along the 3-kilometre length of the Underground City as well as in 9 satellite spaces in the city.

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Hard at work

Always thought-provoking, the festival’s theme this year is Labor Improbus, which involves a reflection on the place of the individual in today’s professional landscape. The invited artists put their medium of choice at work—photography, ceramics, installation, video—to untangle issues like new forms of social alienation, forced conformism, world trade and international professional “standards”.

Labor Improbus came from the fact that the festival takes place in downtown Montréal,” explains art director and chief curator Frédéric Loury. “Every day over 300,000 people travel through the exhibition space on their way to the area’s many offices.” The idea was to directly address this unwitting audience, which the festival is doing with a series of special events and programs.

Lunch-hour fun

Want something interesting to do on you lunch hour? The Vivant Midi series is a free performance art series that happens every weekday between noon and 1 in four of the seven buildings that are part of the Underground City. (Check the website for the schedule.) There’s also a series called Midi Express, where art works along the exhibition path will be explained in a few minutes each by a professional mediator. From Monday to Friday, between 11:30 and 2:30, also free.

More good times

Weekends are a great time to visit too, thanks to guided tours along three distinct themes: I Work Therefore I Am, I Work with Reality, Therefore I Inform, and I Work Therefore I Struggle. They happen Saturdays at 2 pm in English, cost $7 and require reservations. You can also deepen your grasp of various works along the path on weekends, because mediators will be onsite to speak about pieces to all and sundry both Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 6 pm. If you’re in town with the family, also check out the treasure hunt tour: Seeking the Lost Artwork invites kids aged 6 to 12 to follow clues along the exhibition path. It’s accessible every day, for free.

Meanwhile, at the movies

For the first time since the festival was inaugurated a decade ago, Art Souterrain has put together a film programme presented at Cinéma du Parc, in partnership with the Festival des films sur l’art. Clear your Wednesdays for new films every week about the artists included in the festival.

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The locations

The main exhibition runs along the seven buildings that are part of the Underground City, namely 1000 de la Gauchetière, Place Bonaventure, Place de la Cité Internationale, Édifice Jacques-Parizeau, World Trade Centre Montréal, Guy-Favreau Complex and Palais des Congrès de Montréal. You’ll easily find the artworks thanks to directions on the floor, as well as an audio-guide available for free in English or French.

The satellite spaces are Arsenal, Art Matters, CDEx, Ubisoft Exhibition Space, Darling Foundry, The Fridge Door Gallery, Galerie Simon Blais, the Grande Bibliothèque and Cinéma du Parc.

The dates

Opening night March 3, during Nuit Blanche; festival continues until March 25.

Isa Tousignant

Isa Tousignant, blogger

Isa Tousignant is an art and lifestyle writer based out of Montréal’s ecclectic Park Ex neighbourhood. She is Contributing Editor for Canadian Art magazine and freelances full-time for a wide variety of magazines and brands. She’s also a jewellery designer and passionate about animal costumes and their role in contemporary art.