January 4, 2013 ─ Montréal’s underground city is famous in and of itself: a warren of hallways runs for kilometres on end under the downtown core right to the edge of the old town. But Montrealers drop their underground routine once a year, in late February or early March, when their underground city is filled with works of art. It’s time for Art Souterrain, the art show event of the winter.
Since 2009, Art Souterrain has thrived on the energy that pulses through the downtown core. The bustle of workers and shoppers is as lively as on the street itself, or more. A constant, life-giving pulse flows through the tunnels as though they’re the veins of the city.
Art Souterrain started off as just one of the offerings of Nuit blanche, a festival bringing together all manner of cultural events that go on until the small hours. But it quickly established itself as a linchpin of the festival and grew into a full-blown art exhibition, a 15-day showcase of the boldest currents in local art. Since 2012, it has also featured artists from outside Québec.
Miles and miles of artworks take over the underground city, from the shops at the heart of the Central Station to the entrances of downtown metro stations. Diversity is the watchword: from kinetic works, video projections, photographic cycles, and large-scale paintings and sculptures, down to miniature drawings and subtle acoustic works.
Still, at seven kilometres it’s manageable to take in; a good long walk of about three hours, but of course it is indoors! You’ll need more time if your tour leads you to a stop at an interesting heritage building, a museum, a neighbourhood, a break for dinner…