In 1964, Montreal was a city in full development – half way into building Île-Ste-Hélène, fresh off erecting its now-iconic Place Ville Marie, and busy celebrating the inauguration of its one and only, brand new Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal…
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, the Musée d’art contemporain remains the only museum in town dedicated wholeheartedly to contemporary arts, despite the energetic art scene that has flourished around it over the last half-century. Every year the MACM hosts temporary exhibitions by local and international artists (don’t miss Citizen Band by Australian artist Angelica Mesiti these days, a gorgeous take on the music video tradition), as well as parties, live music shows, performances, video projections, talks and more. Plus, every year the MACM mines the riches of its own vast collection – most of which is hidden away in its archives – to make thematic exhibitions. These days, in addition to A Matter of Abstraction, which tells the story of the development of abstract art in Canada, there’s an anniversary show titled The Grace of a Gesture: 50 Years in Gifts.
Composed entirely of works that have been donated to the museum, either by collectors of the artists themselves, The Grace of a Gesture shows how much all museums benefit from generosity. The show packs in epic showstopper after epic showstopper – works as iconic as Spencer Tunick’s Montreal 2 (shot right in front of this very museum!), Marina Abramovic’s Self-portrait with Skeleton and a hilarious installation by Kent Monkman – that illustrate the development of art not only in Canada, but in the world.
Curated like a typical survey show, giving each individual work its room to breathe and the viewer time to absorb the specifics of each creation, the exhibition does give special space to one work in particular: Pulse Room, by Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. This monumental installation work takes over an entire room, dim and moody, decorated with low-hanging light bulbs on the ceiling and animated with a multichannel beating sound. At one extremity of the room is a simple machine, which the viewer is invited to go and touch. Hold it long enough, and it will capture your heartbeat. Then, for a few seconds, the whole room will turn into an homage to your particular beat before letting your sound join the thousands of others to become part of the piece’s basic syncopated soundtrack.
As a gift, Pulse Room couldn’t be better. Through his generosity, Lozano has found a worthy home for his majestic work, like all the other artists behind the 200-some pieces in this show. And in kind, the museum shares these special experiences with all who visit. Here’s to the next 50 years!
The Grace of a Gesture: 50 Years in Gifts, Until September 7, 2014
Picture 1 : SPENCER TUNICK, Chromogenic print sealed between two sheets of Plexiglas, 1/6, 179.8 x 226.5 cm, Gift of Sandra Grant and Gilles Marchand, Collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay, Courtesy the artist
Picture 2: MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ, Cibachrome print, 4/5, 125 x 200 (approximate dimensions), Gift of Robert-Jean Chénier, Collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay, (C) Courtesy of Marina Abramović and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York / SODRAC
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