Montreal is world-renowned for our culture, architecture and nightlife full of vim and vigor. However, it’s the finer, smaller details that really bring the city to life. Check out some of the incredible Public Art installations in and around Montreal!
From massive to subtle, steel to concrete, defiant to downright wacky, Montreal has some pretty awesome Public Art. The majority of which was commissioned by the city of Montreal, but a few are private pieces given as gifts to the city. Some have become landmarks, where tourists gather to click picture after picture, while some have slowly become integrated with the surrounding space. Montreal has hundreds of public pieces, so I will only cover a few of the major pieces and some personal favourites.
Parc Jean Drapeau is like a sculpture garden, with incredible pieces by international artists sprinkled throughout the cluster of islands. One of the most famous pieces of public art in Canada is Man,Three Discs located on the north shore of Ile Sainte-Helene. You might recognize it as the giant metal spider thingy that stands over the crowds that form during Piknik Elektronik. What these partiers might not realize is that they are standing under the most valuable piece of art in Canada, valued at 50 million dollars! Alexander Calder, one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century, created it in 1967 for Expo 67. The abstract sculpture was a gift from the International Nickel Company, reflecting the World Fair’s theme “Man and His World”.
The most recent addition to the art of Parc Jean-Drapeau is L’Arc by Michel de Broin. Inaugurated on September 11th, 2009 it was built in honor of Chilean president Salvador Allende who died in 1973. The sculpture is made to look like a tree growing up and curving right back down into the ground. This is to symbolize one’s desire to return to their roots. It is made out of ultra-high performance concrete, and sits in the Floralies Garden, on Ile Notre-Dame.
Michel de Broin has created numerous installations around Montreal. He’s actually responsible for creating two of my favourites, Revolutions and Entrelacement.
Revolutions was commissioned by the city of Montreal in 2003 and sits in Parc Maisonneuve-Cartier. This work is a giant aluminum staircase that curves and twists itself into an infinite loop. This piece is meant to express a unique part of Montreal’s identity: the curved staircases of the Plateau and Mile End! According to the artist, it also “takes us through an infinite cycle of revolutions, where, from one transformation to the next, all that rises comes down again.”
Entrelacement by Michel de Broin is by far my favourite in Montreal. It’s unimposing and quirky and usually leaves people scratching their heads. Located along Canal Lachine, the bike path suddenly juts off and becomes a chaotic loop of asphalt. It was designed to “rupture the rationality of urban landscaping.” I think it’s just hilarious, as I was quite stumped by it when I first moved to Montreal.
The Gay Village is another area of Montreal that has some cool installations. One of Montreal’s most famous graffiti artists is Zilon. He paints graffiti faces with a futuristic alien vibe. You can find Zilon faces keeping permanent watch over the Village on the corner of St. Catherine and Montcalm.
The space on Wolfe and St. Catherine in the Village hosts a new installation every edition of Aires Libres. This year is an installation called Aire Banque National that was created by Paprika Studios. Letters on poles seemingly say nonsense, but when viewed from a very specific angle, it all lines up and deliver a powerful message! Head on down and see if you can decode…
Last but not least is the iconic “fat ladies talking statue”. A favourite of tourists that walk on Rue St. Paul, it has become a must to pose with this bronze sculpture, or recreate it on a near by bench. It’s actual name is Les chuchoteuses, created by Rose-Aimée Belanger. What people probably don’t know is that this is NOT a public piece of art, but belongs to the gallery Saint-Dizier, located directly across the street (24 Saint Paul West). Even more, these buxom bronze beauties are for sale! For a rumoured $75,000 and a forklift, you could takeLes chuchoteuses home today. But that really would be a crime, because they’ve become local celebrities!