Bearings historical MNBAQ

Roulements historiques au MNBAQ

Photo: Idra Labrie
View of the exhibition of 350 years of artistic practice in Québec

With the inauguration Wednesday of the redeployment of the collections of ancient art and modern art — a case of 700 artworks displayed in five halls — the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) brings to an end the site started seven years ago. The appearance of a flag brand new in June 2016, has indeed led to a reorganization of the whole complex. And led to a bold challenge.

The exhibition of 350 years of artistic practice in Québec, is not an imposing display of what the MNBAQ accumulated since his time ” Museum of the province “. Conducted by a team dominated by women, including curator of modern art Anne-Marie Bouchard, the new deployment tip the sides of museology highly colonial, white male.

Roulements historiques au MNBAQ

Photo: Idra Labrie the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

The extent at once physical, temporal and stylistic of the program does not come without distractions. But the reconciliations are inappropriate or the impression of redundancy (the religious art and the genre of landscape abound) do not weigh in the balance. The story of the arts since the New France until the 1960s, because it is a, story, is based on a lighting unusual. It is less didactic, more airy and more anchored on reality.


First and surprising observation : the old pavilion Gérard-Morisset, where unfolds the expo 350 years…, bathed in natural light. It has not been rebuilt, but it has revived several of its windows. Most importantly, the doors of the original entrance is now in the open position. Even if a glass prevents its use as a access, this small gesture is strong. The visitor does buries itself more foolishly in the past.

The return to New France, and in their ignorance of the territory and of its early inhabitants, is done with the year 2018 in mind. The challenge was great : how to talk about what the history of the art has not withheld ? How to include the Aboriginal people, but also the women and all the other artists whose practices have been put aside because they did not correspond to the canons ?

The expo 350 years… not to restate the history. But in details, without the screaming, twitching. The devil is in the details, non ? It was not only a celebration of masterpieces, but the conversion of non-believers, the high regard that nobles have for themselves, the commodification of the female body…

Five words-suitcases

The allocation of the 700 works, of which 400 had, it seems, never been displayed, has been made on the basis of five words-suitcases (believe, become, imagine, feel, claim to), designed to cover a period of time. The design, distinct from one room to the other, insists on the transparency of the approach of the commissioner, on the flip side of things (many of the works back-to-back), the novelty of the look.

In the section of religious art, it is a tabernacle in the course of acquisition, ownership hitherto of the shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, who is the star. Monumental, it speaks of the disaffection slow, but steady, churches. It also evokes the longevity of the artistic practice of religion (his realization extends from 1692 to 1828) and the evolution of the history of art, because the object had first been falsely attributed to a single artist. By who ? Oops, by Gérard Morisset, formerly director of the Museum.

In the Fate section, the portraits abound, including those of several ladies… women of the nobles of the Eighteenth century. Somewhere through these diptychs, couples bourgeois popped up the only aboriginal artist from the expo, Zachary Vincent. His self-portrait of 1852-1853 is a response to the painting not representative of the First Nations — when they are there. Not so far, the Massacre of the Hurons by the Iroquois (1827-1828) of Joseph Légaré, the idyllic landscapes of Krieghoff, or elsewhere, and the historic Jacques-Cartier meeting the Indians at Stadacomé, 1535 (1907), Suzor-Coté, give him a reason.

Roulements historiques au MNBAQ

Photo: Idra Labrie the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

It is in the section Imagine, where the artists make it their duty to tell the story, even if it means to exaggerate, as Suzor-Coté, as the design matures. It was reconstructed almost the atelier of Napoleon Bourassa, of which the unfinished fresco The apotheosis of Christopher Columbus (1905-1912) welcomes visitors.

There is also a red carpet to comment on the celebrity and the politicization of the paintings. But beyond these large paintings, the commissioner comes out of oblivion, through the medium of digital technology, the names and words of three women and daughters of famous men. Video clips available with the “médiaguide” downloadable put, otherwise, contribution, Natasha Kanapé Fontaine and other voices to comment on the collections.

Roulements historiques au MNBAQ

Photo: Idra Labrie the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

It is in the last room, to Claim it, devoted to the Twentieth century, female artists take the place. Some of them are known (Marcelle Ferron, Marian Dale Scott), others a bit less (Anne Savage, Suzanne Guité), other almost (Madeleine Laliberté, Sarah Robertson), but they are at the same level as Jackson, Lemieux, Roussil and Riopelle, that they have attended.

If the disposition by themes follows the chronology of 350 years, the interior of the rooms is more burst. Anne-Marie Bouchard is visibly pleased with the blurring of the artistic currents, not to categorize a work in the history, as she said during the visit of the press, but rather to arouse emotion of visitors.

Excess expos

The MNBAQ has not been content to go to a large deployment of its collections. It has also opened two temporary exhibitions featuring his works of art today. Designed by another conservative, Maude Lévesque, the expos Mirage white (on the winter) and where do we come From ? What are we ? Where are we going ? (on the identity) include, however, various times. Emphasize the strength of the second set, inspired by the title and the discourse of the tripartite of a painting lighthouse, abstract, Jean McEwen, himself quoting the table life of Paul Gauguin. Politicized, the route ends with a bang by Locum Sanctum (1995), Dominique Blain, a mosaic of images with ambiguous, between violence and terror, game and self-delusion.

350 years of artistic practice in Québec

The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, until November 2026

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