Less than a kilometre away from McGill's Downtown Campus, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) makes for the perfect study break or weekend adventure. With more than a million visitors per year, and over 40,000 works in total, across five buildings, the MMFA is one of the most prominent art museums in Canada. The world-class museum is full of modern and diverse exhibitions, but its huge collection of works can seem daunting. The McGill Tribune narrowed the list down to some of this season’s most popular exhibitions worth a visit or two. From museum rookie to seasoned art lover, there is something for everyone at the MMFA.
La Balade pour la Paix: An Open-Air Museum
As part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary, the MMFA—in collaboration with McGill University—created a public art exhibition comprised of sculpture, photographs, and 200 different national flags. The open-air project is on rue Sherbrooke, running from Boulevard Robert-Bourassa to Rue Bishop. It also celebrates the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The exhibition marks these three important milestones in Montreal’s history, and all the works relate to values of peace, openness, and tolerance.
‘Love is Love’ exhibition
A current highlight within the museum is the “Love is Love” exhibition by Jean-Paul Gaultier. The final stop of “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier”’s five-year tour—as seen by two million visitors around North America—this exhibition of haute-couture bridal gowns is wonderfully eccentric and radically inclusive. Gaultier celebrates LGBTQ, intercultural, and interracial unions of all kinds by displaying modern, nuanced takes on wedding garb. The message is overwhelmingly one of peace and inclusion. The exhibition celebrates progress made through the ages, from the early 20th century up until the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States.
Pavilion for Peace
This permanent installation is part of the MMFA’s “Year of Peace.” Upon entering, visitors are met by a “je suis Charlie” wall hanging before being welcomed into a peaceful walk through a comprehensive consortium of artists including Monet, Picasso, and Cézanne. Though the pavilion is full of older pieces, there are contemporary touches throughout: A gallery of Early Classical works comes alive with projections and audio of a forest on the ceiling. Another feature, also part of the Year of Peace, is the “Tree of Peace,” where visitors can complete the sentence, “peace is the art of…” on a museum-sponsored website, which later posts the responses on social media platforms.
“Mnemosyne: When Contemporary Art and the Art of the Past Meet”
Though renowned for its international collection, the MMFA also showcases the work of 14 Canadian artists in this exhibition. Among its various visual spectacles, an attention-grabbing piece features a toppling breakfast table and spilled milk suspended in time among a series of holographic images and sculptures. The striking pieces draw attention to the fundamental complexity behind all craft, aiming to showcase the history of art.
The Meryl McMaster exhibition, “In-Between Worlds,” is also closer to home, showcasing the Ottawa-born artist’s work as an Indigenous artist. Her photographs depict her dual heritage: Plains Cree and Euro-Canadian. She photographs herself in natural settings surrounded by cultural artifacts and accessories, creating a stark, beautiful, contrast of colors. The exhibition itself engages with the modern question of First Nations identity within the contemporary world. Using images filled with such contrast, McMaster quite literally depicts the reconciliation of contradicting identities that many Indigenous people face when embracing both their heritage and modern society.