Yoko Ono celebrated in Montréal

The art of pop icon Yoko Ono is the subject of the hotly-anticipated exhibition LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM, which runs from April 25 to September 15 at The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal.

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Avant-garde pioneer

A Japanese-American multimedia artist born in Tokyo in 1933, Ono is a visionary artist who, during the 1950s in Tokyo, questioned the concept of art and the art object. She challenged traditional boundaries of art and has since been associated with conceptual art, performance and Fluxus, an international network of artists and composers founded in the 1960s.

Ono’s storied career spans more than 50 years and her great breadth of work is a perfect match with the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain, which was founded by Montréal cultural philanthropist Phoebe Greenberg.

As the Fondation states, “This exhibition wishes to impart Yoko Ono’s massive impact on contemporary art practices, on art reception, and on activism through art.”

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,” which are displayed in both of the Fondation’s buildings.

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The instructions of Yoko Ono

The first part focuses on Ono’s ‘instruction’ works that emphasize the role of the visitors in their completion. Visitors will discover such text-based instructions as Lighting Piece (1955) as well as the participatory works Mending Piece (1966), Horizontal Memories (1997), and Arising (2013).

The first part also includes Water Event (1971/2016), which features the participation of 12 artists from Montréal and other parts of Canada.

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.

Among these is the Acorn project, the War is Over peace campaign, and the legendary and historic Montréal Bed-In, which marks its 50th anniversary on May 26. This part of the exhibition will feature stories from people who actually participated in the Bed-In, told in their own voices and words.

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Montréal Bed-In

In 1969, John and Yoko held their famous Bed-In for Peace at Montréal’s famed Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, which reopened in July 2017 after a $140-million renovation. Lennon and Ono had booked into Rooms 1738, 1740, 1742 and 1744 for seven days starting on May 26, 1969. Those four connecting rooms have now been transformed into Suite 1742.

It is here on June 1, 1969, where John and Yoko recorded their anti-war anthem “Give Peace a Chance” with such guests as Dr. Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Allen Ginsberg, Tom Smothers and Dick Gregory.

To commemorate the Montréal Bed-In, the Fondation, on April 25, will host Stories from the Montreal Bed-In, a round-table featuring Bed-In participants. The talk will be in English, and there is a limited number of seats: first come, first seated. 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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