Standing in a ray of sunlight inside what felt like a glass solarium, I tilted my head up to the warmth: a long awaited respite from the grey dregs of winter in Montreal. I looked down on the roof that caught the snow just below the window, busy flooding my pale and pimply skin with fuzzy memories of summer. Underneath mounds of snow I began to make out tiles of images carved in stone. I was not looking at a roof but a work of art, tucked into a bed of pebbles on a roof, almost invisible to the hurrying passerby.
This is the way of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. A bed of carvings is just a nook in a roof covered in snow. A sunny solarium is just a holding room next to an elevator shaft. Whether it’s walking down the flat and prolonged steps of the great foyer, or beholding their writhing glass sun of bending orange and yellow glass, a visit to the Museum of Fine arts reminds us that to Montrealers, or Canadians in general, art isn’t just something that should be confined to golden frames and marble pedestals. The place of art in this city is everywhere.
Don’t be mistaken, the great sculpted hearts that decorate the sidewalks aren’t meant to be a decorative endeavor, although Montreal is a grey city and any splash of color is welcome. The Museum is a testament to the capacity of humanity, especially Canadians. Their ability to find color in a vast and formidable landscape lies at the heart of the Canadian people, a defiance of sorts. The street and subway art scattered along commute routes is famous, of course, but at its heart, the Museum of fine arts rises above all of it, stacked with treasures and inspiration.
The great wall-sized canvas that stretches a hallway peppered with severed stuffed animal heads, for instance, makes an uneasy and almost horrific sight. The den of Inuit art with its grotesque morphlings of humans and monsters and anguished faces carved in stone, another. Of course, our classics and modernist alike will find their place among the sunny gallery of ladies in silk and pleasing landscapes or the maze of hyper-sexualized and arresting modern work. Perhaps, the ages of artistic manifestation are separated by floors, a descending history of the Canadian spirit, but the unity of work suggests that no portrait is outdated, nor severed arm too outrageous, as all embodiment’s of self-expression are welcome.
Perhaps you came to Canada to be inspired. Perhaps you came to work. Perhaps you came for space or a break. Perhaps you came just for a casual change of pace. Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and you won’t just be inspired, but reminded. Of what, I’ll let you decide.
– Hailey Neal, Professional Writing Major, Spring 2014