Summer exhibitions at Montréal museums

Richard Burnett

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.

This article was updated on August 5, 2020.

Post-Impressionism, Inca treasures and haute-couture fashion are among the many must-see exhibitions at Montréal museums this summer 2020.

Safety measures at all Montréal museums

Wearing a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory. Numerous safety measures have been put in place at all museums to ensure the safety of visitors and employees. Safety precautions and directions for each museum are clearly listed in each entry below. 

The sands of time and Post-Impressionism

The travelling British Museum exhibition Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts reconstructs the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180. In addition to the mummies, the exhibition combines art and cutting-edge technology with more than 200 items from the British Museum’s renowned Egyptian collection. The exhibition has been extended to June 28.

Art lovers will enjoy the new Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism: Signac and the Indépendants exhibition, which opens on July 4. This blockbuster exhibition begins with the first Salon des Indépendants, held in Paris in 1884, and presents more than 500 masterpieces by Paul Signac (some 100 paintings and graphic works) and the avant-gardists: Impressionists (Degas, Monet, Morisot), Fauves (Dufy, Friesz, Marquet), Symbolists (Gauguin, Redon), Nabis (Bonnard, Denis, Lacombe, Sérusier, Ranson, Vallotton), observers of life in Paris (Anquetin, Ibels, Picasso, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec) and, of course, Neo-Impressionists (Cross, Luce, Pissarro, Seurat, Van Rysselberghe). The exhibition runs to November 15.

The following MMFA services will not be offered: the cloakroom, on-site audio guide rentals, the restaurant and café, workshops, guided tours and educational activities. Also, the galleries housing the collections and discovery exhibitions are closed. Egyptian Mummies is currently the only exhibition open to the public.

Visitors must absolutely book their tickets online and select the date and time of their visit. Tickets will be date-time stamped in order to control the flow of visitors. This new rule ensures public safety and allows visitors a more intimate exploration of the exhibition.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the MMFA to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Splendour of the Incas

Pointe-à-Callière reopens to the public on June 25 with a discount on admission tickets. On view will be the two temporary exhibitions, The Incas, Treasures of Peru (until October 4, 2020) and Into the Wonder Room (until January 10, 2021) as well as most of the museum’s permanent exhibitions.

The blockbuster The Incas, Treasures of Peru exhibition explores the world of the Incas and Andean culture – mainly that of Peru – from prehistory to the contemporary era, and features nearly 300 pieces including eye-popping gold and silver work, ornaments, jewelry, vases, clothing, funerary masks and ritual objects. While their domination lasted less than a century (from 1450 to 1532), the Incas built one of the most spectacular empires the world has known, spreading from Ecuador to Peru, Bolivia and half of present-day Chile.

Visitors are encouraged to purchase their tickets online on the day they visit the museum. Numerous measures have been put in place at Pointe-à-Callière to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Montréal prêt-à-porter

Reopening on June 23, the McCord Museum returns with a program of three temporary exhibitions dedicated to Montréal artists, in addition to its permanent exhibition.

Legendary Montréal fashion designer Jean-Claude Poitras – who left his mark on prêt-à-porter over the course of a prolific career that began in 1972 – gets the career retrospective treatment in Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, which has been extended until August 2.

Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist explores the world of iconic Québec cartoonist Serge Chapleau. Visitors will see more than 150 cartoons, sketches and original illustrations by this multidisciplinary artist. The exhibition runs until March 7, 2021, while the Griffintown – Evolving Montreal exhibition by Robert Walker is extended until February 15, 2021.  

Also, starting September 25, the McCord will host the much-anticipated exhibition Christian Dior, bringing together more than 50 designs from the rich Dior collection.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the McCord to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Relive the 1980s

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) reopens on June 24 with an adjusted schedule (open from Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m.) and special measures. Visitors must book their tickets and time slots online beginning June 20.

Visitors can discover and rediscover artists from the MAC’s collection and ongoing exhibitions, such as the critically-acclaimed Painting Nature with a Mirror, which explores 1980s painting in Canada and traces recent parallel developments in painting. The exhibition draws its title from a painting by Alberta-based artist Ron Moppett, which is on display alongside works by such renowned Canadian painters as Betty Goodwin, Robert Houle and others. The paintings are drawn from the MAC collection, some on display for the first time since they were acquired.

Both Painting Nature with a Mirror and the Points of Light exhibition – which showcases six works from the museum’s video collection – have been extended to August 31.

The MAC is implementing special measures to ensure the safety of its visitors and employees, and encourages visitors to follow the hygiene measures recognized and recommended by the Québec government.

The following services will not be offered: coat check, art workshops, guided tours, group tours and children’s parties. The MAC day camps have also been cancelled.

Summer at the Stewart

When the Stewart Museum reopens on June 25, visitors will be able to see two exhibitions, the permanent History and Memory exhibition about the discovery of the new world to the birth of Canada, as well as Nights (runs to March 7, 2021), which takes visitors into four night worlds via original stories by four well-known Québec writers: Heather O’Neill, Simon Boulerice, Dominique Demers and Éric Dupont. The authors’ stories are brought to life in theatrical sets alongside artefacts from the Stewart and McCord museum collections.

Families can also enjoy the museum's courtyard, breathtaking views of Montréal and the large green spaces of Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Stewart to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Heavenly architecture

On June 13, the Musée des Hospitalières de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal reopens with the temporary exhibition Victor Bourgeau. A bishop and his architect about the principal architect of the Montréal Catholic diocese under the episcopate of Bishop Bourget. Bourgeau built more than 200 buildings in Québec, including Montréal’s renowned Grey Nuns’ convent, as well as the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal itself, in 1861. The exhibition focuses on the profession of architecture in the 19th century and explores the ecclesiastical heights of Bourgeau’s career.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Musée des Hospitalières to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

The Botanical Garden

The 75-hectare Montréal Botanical Garden is home to some 30 thematic gardens, including the Alpine Garden, the Chinese Garden and the First Nations Garden. The outdoor gardens (but not the greenhouses) will reopen on June 15. Compliance with the new health and physical distancing guidelines has forced the cancellation of some summer activities.

Free admission for children aged 17 and under, from June 15 to August 31. The number of visitors entering the site will be reduced, and the online reservation of timed tickets is strongly recommended.

Numerous measures have been put in place at the Botanical Garden to ensure the safety of visitors and employees.

Avant-garde art at Phi

The Phi Centre in Old Montréal launches its summer season on June 24 with its brand new exhibition Emergence & Convergence, which brings together works that contemplate the intersection of the self, digital technology, the built environment and the natural world. The exhibition runs to September 6.

On July 8, the neighbouring Fondation Phi pour l'art contemporain launches its RELATIONS: Diaspora and Painting collective exhibition, which explores the complex and multiple meanings of diaspora, its condition, and its experiences as expressed through painting. The exhibition runs to November 29.

Phi has put in place numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors and employees, respecting the protocol drawn up by public health authorities. The premises are designed and arranged to accommodate the public in a safe, healthy and comfortable environment, providing both an enriching experience and peace of mind. 

Château Ramezay – Historic Site and Museum of Montréal

Originally built in 1705 by Montréal’s then-governor Claude de Ramezay as his personal residence, the Château Ramezay is the oldest private historical museum in Québec. Permanent and seasonal exhibitions attest to the far-reaching history of Montréal, but none so much as the Château Ramezay itself, which served as the Canadian headquarters of the American Revolutionary Army in 1775 and 1776, and where Benjamin Franklin stayed when he tried to persuade Montréal to join the revolution. In summertime, the Governor’s Garden (open daily from 9 am to 4 pm until October 31) is located behind the building and evokes the gardens of New France. The permanent indoor Hochelaga, Ville-Marie and Montréal exhibition explores the history of Montréal, Québec and Canada from Indigenous prehistory to the early 20th century.

Beginning July 11, the Château Ramezay presents Montréal Landscapes ­– Power Corporation of Canada Artworks Collection featuring 30 paintings of Montréal by 15 artists, from one of the most important art collections in Canada. The exhibition runs until October 4.  

The museum has been set up to offer visitors a safe and enjoyable visit, in accordance with established health guidelines. The museum’s cultural activities, guided tours and lecture program are on hold until further notice.

Our lady of the harbour

Visitors are transported back through time at the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Historic Site (formerly the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum and Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel) in the heart of Old Montréal.

Built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel, the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Historic Site houses a museum dedicated to Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, the Frenchwoman who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montréal and was the colony’s first teacher back in 1653 (Bourgeoys was canonized by the Vatican in 1982). The site also houses the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel where Bourgeoys is buried. The brand-new permanent Meet Marguerite! exhibition explores Bourgeoys’ personal saga and how her legacy continues to resonate around the globe.

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours is also known as the “Sailor’s Church” not just because it overlooks the harbour, but because it was famed in the 19th century for being a pilgrimage site for sailors who arrived in the Old Port. Visitors can climb the chapel’s belvedere to join the “angels of Ville-Marie” and enjoy spectacular views of the Old Port and Old Montréal.

All Québec government-prescribed health precautions are in place to ensure employees’ and visitors’ safety. Visitors can reserve tickets online at or purchase them safely at the door. The site is open daily all summer from 10 am to 6 pm.

Richard Burnett

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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