MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS UNVEILS NEW PAVILION OF QUEBEC AND CANADIAN ART AND CONCERT HALL

  • MONTREAL, Canada
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  • January 18, 2012

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Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ (MMFA) new Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art. Photo Marc Cramer, courtesy MMFA.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010, is pleased to announce that its new 59,000-gsf. Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art and Concert Hall opened to the public on October 14, 2011. Increasing the MMFA’s total exhibition space by 20%, the new Pavilion features 18,953 nsf. of gallery space, which doubles the previous display area dedicated for the presentation of the Museum’s collection of historical and contemporary Quebec and Canadian art.

Lyonel Feininger, Uprising, part of the exhibit "Lyonel Feininger: From Manhattan to the Bauhaus," January 21 to May 13, 2012, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion at the MMFA. © The Lyonel Feininger Family LLC / SODRAC (2011).

In this new award-winning building (recipient of the 2010 Canadian Architect Awards of Merit and the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Urban Development Institute of Quebec), the Museum will present a more coherent and comprehensive examination of the history of Quebec and Canadian art. Continuing the MMFA’s policy of offering free admission to its permanent collection, the new Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion will provide thousands of visitors, school groups, families, and tourists with the opportunity to learn more about Canada’s rich cultural heritage. In order to foster a new dialogue between the visual arts and music, the Museum’s expansion includes the restoration, and conversion of the nave of the former Erskine and American church (1894) into a 444-seat concert hall. The new 8,095-nsf. Bourgie Concert Hall will host a full range of music performances along with a variety of museum-related public programs. Access to the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion and Bourgie Concert Hall is provided via a shared new main entrance clad in the same marble found in the Museum’s existing pavilions, while an underground gallery also links the two structures to the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion.

A Complex Restoration and Conversion of a National Historic Site

A critical component of the Museum’s expansion efforts involved saving and annexing the Victorian Erskine
and American Church, deconsecrated in 2004 and acquired by the Museum in 2008. Designated a national historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1998, the church was built by Montreal architect Alexander C. Hutchison in 1894, and inspired by the Romanesque Revival buildings of American Architect Henry Hobson Richardson (Trinity Church, Boston). Its imposing façade, formed from an ingenious combination of heavily rusticated grey limestone and lavishly-sculpted brown Miramichi sandstone (all newly restored and cleaned), as well as Byzantine-style dome are rare in Montreal.

According to Nathalie Bondil, the MMFA’s Director and Chief Curator, “This choice represents a major initiative by the Museum to beautify our city.” Charged with the task of designing a new Pavilion while preserving a Canadian architectural treasure, Montreal-based Provencher Roy + Associés architects, led by Claude Provencher and Matthieu Geoffrion, worked with a team of 450 professionals and craftsmen on this unprecedented, multilevel, multipurpose addition. In awarding Provencher Roy + Associés architects with its 2011 Excellence Award, the Urban Development Institute of Quebec commended the new Pavilion for “its exceptional urban integration and its design, which brings past and future together.”
Attention to Architectural Harmony Achieving a critical balance between the new and surrounding structures involved the use of building materials including glass and marble that were both specific to the new contemporary section and in concert with the former church and three other existing pavilions. “Nowadays I think that we have to ensure meaningful
integrations of buildings… Such attempts must be contemporary, yet respectful and characteristic of their time.
The example of the Pavilion incorporating the Erskine and American Church belongs to this new trend,”
explained Provencher.

In order to form a cohesive whole, white marble from Vermont previously used for the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion (1912, architects Edward & W.S. Maxwell) and the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion (1991, architect Moshe Safdie) was chosen for the exterior of the new Pavilion. The new addition’s seamless façade is comprised of 1,500 sheets of marble cut from 27 successive slabs formed from 16 contiguous blocks from the same quarry wall. According to Geoffrion, “The marble isn’t installed on the façade like a skin, but like actual clothing.”

Emphasis was also placed on connecting users to both surrounding museum buildings and outlying structures. On the top level, a glassed-in gallery affords stunning views of Mount Royal, and the incorporation of glass walls throughout the new Pavilion and at each gallery entrance creates dynamic, light‐filled spaces that offer multiple framed views of the city.

New Pavilion Increases the Museum’s Total Exhibition Space by 20%
Some 600 works of Canadian art will now be on display, including recently restored works and many major acquisitions that were part of the Museum’s 150th anniversary campaign. The installation conceived by Jacques Des Rochers, curator of Quebec and Canadian Art, in conjunction with curators Anne Grace (Modern Art) and Stéphane Aquin (Contemporary Art), will display works chronically on six levels. A critical aspect of this unprecedented effort by the Museum to study, exhibit, and promote its historic collection involved the restoration of one hundred works led by Richard Gagnier, head of the MMFA’s Conservation Department.

The new Pavilion’s 18,953 net square feet of exhibition space is allotted as follows: Level 4: 2,344 sf.; Level 3, 2, and 1: 2,725 sf.; S1: 4,812 3 sf.; S2: 3,623 sf. The over 600 works from the Museum’s Collection of Quebec and Canadian Art are arranged from top to bottom in the new Pavilion in the following order:

On Level 4, Inuit art, Takuminartut, is presented in a gallery adjacent to a glassed‐in gallery. Roughly one hundred works on view include sculptures and prints that trace the development of Inuit art up to the present day.

Level 3, organized along the theme of Founding Identities, will feature works from the Colonial Period (1700s to 1870s) associated with the origins of Canadian art and the emergence of a national school of landscape painting. Historical and contemporary Aboriginal art has been integrated to highlight First Nations’ critical look back at contact with Europeans and early Canadians.

On Level 2, visitors will discover The Era of Annual Exhibitions (1880s to 1920s) associated with such artists as William Brymner, Maurice Cullen, and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté. This section will also feature works by some of the most important artists of the period including Ozias Leduc, J.W. Morrice, Maurice Cullen, and Alfred Laliberté.

On Level 1, Towards Modernism (1920s to 1930s) will feature depictions of Quebec cityscapes and rural landscapes by the Beaver Hall Group, Montreal’s earliest group of modern artists; and Toronto’s Group of Seven, best known for framing a national identity through their depictions of the Canadian wilderness. There will also be special gallery space devoted to Marc-Aurèle Fortin.

The Sherbrooke Street level (S1) will present The Age of the Manifesto (1940s to 1960s) featuring works by artists who signed the Prismes d’Yeux, Refus global and Manifeste des Plasticiens including exceptional selections by leading figures of these movements including Alfred Pellan, Paul‐Émile Borduas and Jean‐Paul Riopelle.

Organized around the theme of Expanding Fields (1960s to1970s), the underground Mountain Gallery (Level S2) links the new Pavilion to the Galleries of International Contemporary Art located in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion. In this vast, 148-foot long gallery, visitors will discover works by Louis Archambault, Greg Curnoe, Jean McEwen, Guido Molinari, Michael Snow and Claude Tousignant, and such monumental works as Jean-Paul Riopelle’s Ice Canoe (1992), among others.
First Publication on the Museum’s Collection of Quebec and Canadian Art To coincide with the opening of the new Pavilion, the Museum is releasing Quebec and Canadian Art – the first major publication (399 pages) to cover its collection of Quebec and Canadian art. Under the general editorship of Jacques Des Rochers, the first section introduces the history of the Museum’s buildings, and provides an overview of the development and identity of the collection itself.

Quebec and Canadian Art is published by the Museum under the direction of Francine Lavoie, designed by the
Montreal agency orangetango, and will be distributed by Abrams in 2012.

Former Church Nave and Crypt Transformed
Named in honor of Pierre Bourgie, the patron and founder of the Arte Musica Foundation, the former Erskine and American Church’s nave has been restored and transformed into a new, 444-seat Bourgie Concert Hall, Serving as the main entrance point to both Pavilion and Hall, the former crypt has been converted into a lobby featuring ticket counter,
cloakroom and bar-boutique along with rehearsal and dressing rooms.

Ideally suited for chamber groups and other small ensembles such as string orchestras, the new Concert Hall will host over 100 hundred concerts annually, along with educational and cultural activities associated with music and the fine arts, film screenings, and special events. Included among the structural improvements (Go Multimédia for the stage and electronics, and consultants Legault Davidson for the acoustics) is the addition of a birch shell over the stage. The hall contains 311 removable seats located on the parterre level, and 133 seats comprising the original pews on the balcony level. The Hall’s interior design was developed by the architects and designer Christiane Michaud, who collaborated with the Museum’s curatorial team to ensure that many historical details were respected.

18 Tiffany windows, which are now part of the Museum’s collection, were originally commissioned at the turn of the twentieth century for the American Presbyterian Church (now demolished). They were then reinstalled in the Erskine and American Church in 1937-338, then restored and reinstalled again in the former church and now new Concert Hall. 17 of these windows were created between 1897 and 1904, during the heyday of the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in New York. This remarkable grouping constitutes one of only two commissions by Tiffany in Canada and one of the few surviving religious series in North America.

Highlights among the 146 stained glass windows housed in the new Hall also include a six-panel window in the narthex depicting views of Montreal, designed by Charles William Kelsey in 1939, and a large half-rose window depicting biblical figures created by Peter Haworth in 1938-1939. Under the supervision of Richard Gagnier, window restoration efforts were carried out in Montreal by Françoise Saliou and Thomas Belot of Atelier La Pierre de Lune.

Expanded Outdoor Sculpture Garden Features New Site-Specific Installations
Dating back to 2002, the Museum’s sculpture garden has been expanded to house one of the largest collections of public art in Montreal. Over twenty works are currently being installed including new works by artists Jim Dine Dominique Blain, and David Altmedj, as well as César, Aaron Curry, Barry Flanagan, François-Xavier Lalanne, Fernand Léger, Jaume Plensa and Colleen Wolstenholme, among others.

New commissions that are also part of the Museum’s recent expansion include Montreal-artist Dominique Blain’s Mirabilia (2011). For the outdoor terrace on Level 3 of the new Pavilion, Blain was commissioned to create a series of glass blocks, lit from within, resting on a bed of stones. When viewed from the third floor, they resemble the topography of a city and from the fourth floor; they appear more like ghostly imprints.

According to MMFA’s Nathalie Bondil, “The model of this work is inspiring: the cemetery of a vanished museum attached to the dome of the restored church, with numerous artworks that were destroyed or have disappeared, the shadow or light of a collection seen in negative, like the walled graveyards that nestle against the apse of a church.”

Private-Public Funding
Total cost for the project is $42.4 million CAD and includes $34.1 million for the construction, with $19.4 million in financing from the Quebec government and $13.5 million from the Canadian government. Contributions from the private sector include $8.3 million for the purchase of the church, restoration of the stained glass windows, and acquisition of the equipment for the Pavilion and Concert Hall.

The Museum offers its deepest gratitude to all those who contributed, notably Hydro-Québec, Power Corporation of Canada, Reitmans (Canada) Limited, the National Bank of Canada, Andrée and Pierre H. Lessard, the J. A. Bombardier Foundation, the Volunteers Association of the MMFA, Francis Gutmann in tribute to the Bloch Bauer family and especially the Bourgie family of Montreal, who provided exceptional support for this project from the very beginning. The Museum would like to thank Claire and Marc Bourgie, as well as Pierre Bourgie and Mrs. Claude Bourgie Bovet for their extraordinary generosity.


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