February 14, 2013 ─ Arsenal dropped anchor in the burgeoning former working-class district of Griffintown in 2011. Its mission: to change the landscape of Montréal contemporary art for the better.
Arsenal took over a huge former shipyard, the Montreal Marine Works, built in 1846. Transformed with care and good taste, the more than century-old building now hosts more than 40,000 ft2 (3,700 m2) of gallery space. Like all the best reused heritage buildings, Arsenal marries a robust past with the delicacy of the modern transformation.
Arsenal’s distinguishing feature is its gigantic ground floor, both deep and high, with a garage door and a still-functioning ten-tonne bridge crane. This room can be adapted for any number of different kinds of events, shows, or gala receptions.
Financed by Montréal collectors Pierre and Anne-Marie Trahan, Arsenal hosts a number of different exhibit stages on the second floor, and private collections can be hung in a long corridor. A small auditorium, comfortable and soundproof, screens video works. And in the rear of the building, Pierre Trahan’s Galerie Division and the renowned Galerie René Blouin have set up shop.
Not all of this is necessarily permanent. The building lends itself to renovations, and is so innovative that its features are still being discovered. And although “cutting-edge contemporary art from here and abroad is at the heart of each project at L’Arsenal,” the space is also open to other fields, such as Formula 1 and fashion design. All with the fine mission “to serve contemporary art by gathering new audiences.