The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is expanding in bold and beautiful ways. As autumn settles in and winter is trailing not so far behind it, art and music lovers can seek refuge in Montreal’s newest creative space – the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion and Bourgie Concert Hall…
I’ve chatted a few times now with Nathalie Bondil, the Chief Curator and Director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. As a proud Montrealer, I love that she is conscious of the city as a whole; recognizing that we’re not all art intellectuals, Bondil’s mantra seems to be “art for the people”. After bringing international attention to the city with the fabulous and highly accessible Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective (which recently closed), the latest hype is happening just next door – and entry is FREE.
After a major renovation and expansion, the former Erskine and American Church has morphed into the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion. You may have noticed the sleek marble entrance that contrasts almost poetically with the original structure, or the recently unveiled bronze sculpture by David Altmejd – a very young Montrealer, I might add, born in 1974. Altmejd’s imposing four-metre tall sculpture, The Eye, (pictured above), is a fitting welcome for the building, which highlights Quebec and Canadian Art.
The contemporary design of the multi-level, north-end expansion now showcases specific themes and time frames. Starting at the top, level four is all about Inuit Art; level three is Founding Identities (1700s to 1870s); level two is The Era of Annual Exhibitions (1880s to 1920s); level one is Towards Modernism (1920s to 1930s); and the street level is The Age of the Manifesto (1940s to 1960s), which includes a mini-gallery devoted to one of my favourite Quebecois artists Jean-Paul Riopelle (next to Marc-Aurèle Fortin and Jean Paul Lemieux).
And did I mention that you can see all of this for FREE? Even the audio-guide rental is FREE. Opening weekend (Oct. 14 to 16) will also host a series of FREE activities for all ages and interests, including films, lectures, story-telling sessions, drawing workshops and more.
Besides all this, as well as the rotating exhibitions and installations, the must-see space is certainly the new Bourgie Hall. It boasts 444 seats (133 original pews), ornate décor, and enchanting Tiffany stained-glass windows, which have been painstakingly restored and spiffied-up. October 11 is the first concert open to the public and keep this spot on your radar for a complete fall and winter 2011-12 season of musical programming produced by the Arte Musica Foundation and various Montreal music organizations. There are two new Steinway pianos, two harpsichords, a chamber organ and a clavicytherium. I have no idea what the latter is, but I guess that’s just one more reason to go.
The Bourgie Hall will host about 130 spectacles. Busy professionals might want to take note of the Musical 5-à-7 series where you can kick back with an after-work cocktail, mingle with like-minded folk, then at 6 p.m. escape for an hour to the tune of chamber-music classics, world music or jazz. There will be ten of these Thursday concerts between now and next June. This, though, you have to pay for. Personally, I’m already looking forward to some bossa nova in February.
Finally, I must share with you another museum festivity also debuting this fall. The Big Bang exhibit will be open on November 6 and run until January 22, 2012 in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, which is just across the street. For this, Bondil gave carte blanche to 18 Quebec artists to create an installation of their choice. This unique, multimedia love-in brings together filmmaker Denys Arcand, musician Melissa Auf der Maur, dancer Marie Chouinard, muralists Collectif En Masse, singer/songwriter Pierre Lapointe, playwright Wajdi Mouawad, circus artist Jeannot Painchaud, fashion designer Renata Morales, cartoonist Michel Rabagliati and architect Gilles Saucier, just to name a few.
Bourgie Concert Hall, 1339 Sherbrooke Street West, (514) 285-2000
Photo Credit: Patricia Gajo