As an art museum fanatic, an opportunity to explore the Montreal museum scene without spending a dime is one that I can never pass up. Luckily for me, on Sunday May 29, the city of Montreal hosted its 30th annual Montreal Museum Day, during which up to 36 local museums were open to the public, free of charge. I immediately jumped on this opportunity and visited three local spots: Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC), Musée McCord, and Galerie de l’UQAM.
My first stop, MAC, located in Quartier des Spectacles, was established in 1964 with the aim of introducing the public to the realm of contemporary art created by artists within the province and beyond. For Museum Day, art workshops were offered throughout the afternoon for visitors to create their own pieces inspired by the works shown in the Edmund Alleyn exhibit.
The exhibit I visited, Edmund Alleyn’s In my Studio, I am Many is a temporary display open until Sept. 25. The first section of the display showcased Alleyn’s First Nations-inspired works. Alleyn used vibrant blacks, reds, and yellows in an abstract style.
My next stop was Musée McCord. Founded in 1921 by David Ross McCord, this history museum situated right in front of McGill’s downtown campus is dedicated to embracing the past and present culture of Montreal. As a special feature for Museum Day, a latin-themed band, starring Dominique Hudson, put on a show in the Urban Forest throughout the afternoon. The unique latin-inspired francophone music was a nice touch to the day, and seemed to get the audience moving.
Unfortunately, however, the exhibits at McCord were subject to the swarms of eager and curious visitors. The placement of the pieces made it difficult for numerous viewers to achieve a complete perspective of the art being displayed without feeling pressured to move aside.
Musée McCord featured two permanent exhibits, allowing intrigued Museum Day attendees to return to the exhibits at any time. The first, Wearing our Identity—The First Peoples Collection, showcased the clothing of the First Peoples of Canada and the ways in which it has defined their culture and identities. In contrast to Alleyn’s First Nations-inspired art, which represented his interpretation of a culture that was not his own, this exhibit featured work created by First Peoples themselves.
The other permanent exhibit at Musée McCord, Montreal—Points of View, explored the historical development of the city throughout time by displaying everyday artifacts, including antique umbrellas and vintage Molson beer bottles. Additionally, Eleganza, a temporary exhibit that will be up until Sept. 25, showcases the glamorous works of famous Italian designers—primarily from the post-World War II era—including Valentino, Prada, and Dolce and Gabbana.
With limited time, but sufficient motivation, I made my way to Galerie de l’UQAM. Devoted to shedding light on the works of Quebec artists, as well as student artists of UQAM, this gallery houses up to 4,000 diverse pieces ranging from photography to sculptures, and more. In addition to the local collection, the gallery also contains several sets of inherited ancient art. As a special Museum Day exhibit, Galerie de L’UQAM presented the mummy of Hetep-Bastet, a wealthy Egyptian woman who lived around 600 BC. While viewing the mummy, I was spellbound by the history that such a piece represents. This piece gave an interesting additional edge to the gallery, leaving a memorable impression for its first participation in Montreal Museum Day.
Montreal Museum Day offered a perfect opportunity to become acquainted with local museums without breaking the bank. Though group art-watching can be enriching, the crowds at McCord and Galerie de l’UQAM made it hard to catch more than a glimpse, intensifying my motivation to return in the future for a deeper look at some of the exhibits available until September and beyond. Nevertheless, Museum Day provides opportunity to be introduced to local museums, allowing viewers to decide whether or not to return on a normal day and see more.