Conserving Art for All to Share

True to its vocation of acquiring and promoting the work of Canadian and international artists past and present, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA)has a mission to attract the broadest and most heterogeneous public possible, and to provide that public with firsthand access to a universal artistic heritage.

Founded in 1860, the MMFA was one of the first museums in North America to amass an encyclopedic collection worthy of the name. Since then, its holdings have grown to almost 41,000 objects—paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs and decorative art objects—from antiquity to today.

Year after year, the MMFA continues to acquire new works to enrich its collections drawn from World's Cultures, European Art, Canadian Art, Inuit and First Nations Art, Contemporary Art and Decorative Arts.

Major Dates in the History of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts



Foundation of the Art Association of Montreal (AAM), the forerunner of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, by Montreal art lovers and collectors wishing to endow the city, now expanding both industrially and demographically, with a space devoted to art and culture.


The AAM owes its expansion to the merchant Benaiah Gibb, who bequeathed land on Sherbrooke Street, money for the construction of a museum and some paintings and sculptures, the kernel of a collection destined to become one of the most important in Canada.


Inauguration of the Art Gallery in a building (now demolished) in Phillips Square in downtown Montreal. It is the first building in Canada designed to house an art collection and temporary exhibitions.


The Art Association presents its first annual exhibition of contemporary Canadian art, the Spring Exhibition (the last of which is held in 1965).


The Art Gallery moves into a brand‐new building on Sherbrooke Street (present-day Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion, now devoted to archaeology, world cultures and temporary exhibitions). Designed by Canadian architects Edward and William S. Maxwell, the Art Gallery comprises exhibition galleries, a lecture hall, an art library – the oldest in the country – and art studios.


Under the direction of F. Cleveland Morgan, the Museum's volunteer curator until 1962, the collections gradually become more comprehensive with the addition of ancient cultures and the creation of a department of decorative arts.


An extension built at the back of the pavilion, the Norton Addition, displays temporary exhibitions of works on loan to the Art Gallery and provides galleries for the collection of decorative arts.


Official adoption of the name "The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts" after the appointment of the first professional director, Robert Tyler Davis, in 1947. Opening of a gallery devoted to the work of contemporary artists, most from Montreal.


Centenary of the founding of the Art Association of Montreal. The Museum's name becomes officially bilingual: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts/Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Launch of a wide‐ranging programme of temporary exhibitions (Tutankhamen, Rodin, Picasso...).


A change of status: from being a private institution, the Museum becomes a mixed non‐profit corporation with the goals of "encouraging the plastic arts, disseminating the knowledge of art, acquiring, conserving, collecting, showcasing and exhibiting works of art." From this point on, the Museum receives approximately 50% of its annual funding from Quebec's Ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, the other half being self-generated.


Third expansion with the opening of a second pavilion designed and built by American architect Fred Lebensold (now the Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion, devoted to the decorative arts and design). Opening of the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium.


Fourth expansion with the opening of the third wing (the Jean‐Noël Desmarais Pavilion, now devoted to international art, from the Old Masters to contemporary art) designed by Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. An underground gallery links the buildings on either side of Sherbrooke Street.


Installation of the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts (founded by Liliane and David M. Stewart in 1979) in residence at the Museum in a space created by Canadian‐born architect Frank O. Gehry to accommodate permanent and temporary exhibitions. Today, this space is devoted to educational activities. Creation of the MMFA Foundation to raise funds from the private sector to reinforce the Museum's financial autonomy, enrich its collections, support the organization of major exhibitions and increase its educational activities.


Major gift of the Liliane and David M. Stewart collection: close to 5,500 twentieth‐century decorative‐arts objects. The Museum now holds one of North America's most important collections in this field. The historic 1912 pavilion is named after Michal and Renata Hornstein, major museum patrons who have made major gifts of Old Masters.


Purchase of the Erskine and American Church. Designed by Alexander C. Hutchison and inaugurated in 1894, it includes an exquisite set of twenty Tiffany stained glass windows. With the creation of the Arte Musica Foundation, in residence at the Museum, by Pierre Bourgie, music makes its official entrance in the Museum's programming. The MMFA expands, without closing its doors to the public, and continues to offer a programme of original and international exhibitions. Gift of Ben Weider's Napoleon collection and inauguration of the new Empire Galleries.


Inauguration of the Museum's fourth pavilion – the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art – designed by the Montreal architects Provencher + Roy Associés. Inauguration of the Bourgie Concert Hall in the heritage church adjacent to the new pavilion. Complete reinstallation of the Museum's collections, now housed in separate pavilions, and publication of the first of three major art books on the collections (2011‐2012). Record number of members: 62,500, as compared to 44,000 in 2006.


In the spring, installation of the public spaces around the Museum complex with the opening of a new downtown pedestrian mall and an expanded sculpture garden. In the fall, expansion and opening of new educational spaces, the StudiO Arts & Education Michel de la Chenelière.