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September 11, 2021 – February 13, 2022

“How long does it take for one voice to reach another?”

This fall’s main attraction at the MMFA highlights major works in the Museum’s permanent collection that touch on subjects that have affected us all over the past year: love and loss, separation and reconciliation, listening and the desire to be heard.

Spanning multiple centuries and cultures, the exhibition juxtaposes rarely seen Pre-Columbian objects and Persian manuscripts, as well as Old Master paintings and works by Modern and Contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. It features new acquisitions being displayed for the first time at the Museum as well as several important loans from Canadian collections, both institutional and private.

« Combien de temps… » avec la commissaire | “How long does it take...” with the curator

The exhibition’s inspiration and themes

“How long does it take for one voice to reach another?” explores the concept of the voice in both its physical and metaphorical registers, asking through art what it is to find meaningful connection after the long period of isolation we have just come through. Drawn from a line of poetry by Carolyn Forché, its title bears a special history. Inscribed in stainless steel into the floor of the Promenade, on Level S1 of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, it is part of a work that Betty Goodwin created in 1991 for the pavilion’s inauguration. Beyond its local resonance, the poetic question has broader reach in our current historical moment, when too many voices go unheard and those that are listened to, more often than not, are mediated by the television, computer or smartphone screen.

The exhibition unfolds thematically, delving into the notion of voice not only as a sonic phenomenon but also as a culturally elaborated metaphor: a site where discourses and ideas, communities and connections are made manifest and challenged through embodied practice. Rebecca Belmore, Geneviève Cadieux, Janet Cardiff, Hannah Claus, Stanley Février, Betty Goodwin, Shilpa Gupta, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Nadia Myre and Niap (Nancy Saunders) are among the artists presented. Important works from the Museum’s Modern and Old Master collections by such artists as Charles Gagnon, Yves Gaucher, Rembrandt, Ribera and Rodin are also included.


Geneviève Cadieux (born in 1955), Hear Me with Your Eyes,1989, 3 prints, cibachrome and gelatin silver, 1/3, 244.8 x 305.3 cm (each panel). MMFA, purchase, Art Sales and Rental Gallery Fund. Photo Annie Fafard

The Floor is Yours!

In the final gallery of the exhibition, designed in collaboration with the documentary theatre company Porte Parole and MMFA mediators, visitors are invited to share their impressions by making drawings and other creations. Giant rolls of paper are unfurled along the walls to inspire participants to express themselves creatively in response to the themes of the exhibition. All public health measures are taken to avoid physical contact, and the creative materials made available are thoroughly disinfected between each use. Mediators are on hand in the space on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., as well as Thursday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Special activities are being organized this fall in conjunction with Porte Parole. Visitors are invited to record their experiences, memories and impressions in advance of a major event to take place on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, in the MMFA’s Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, in which some of the recordings will be presented.

Participants in the mediation space The floor is yours!

About Porte Parole

Founded in 2000 by playwright Annabel Soutar and actor Alex Ivanovici, Porte Parole creates and produces documentary plays that deal with current social issues and inspire audiences’ critical thinking about them.

In the media

Ne manque ni de classe ni d’à-propos. Pièces fortes et discours plus que justifié (l’écoute, le rapprochement, l’entente…) en font une exposition phare...
Les salles se succèdent en douceur sur un crescendo d’émotions, d’une expérience personnelle, presque spirituelle, et silencieuse, à l’expression collective d’une chorale.

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Le Devoir

Jérôme Delgado

Le Devoir

L’exposition la plus bouleversante de la rentrée culturelle montréalaise.

Read the article (in French)

Ji-Yoon Han
Vie des arts

Pour sa rentrée automnale, le MBAM a sorti des bijoux de sa collection et profité d’emprunts de qualité. […Une] œuvre magnifique de Janet Cardiff […], un exercice d’écoute immersive, avec ses chants sortant de 40 haut-parleurs dont on fait le tour pour apprécier les lignes mélodiques de chaque voix, […] termine bien la visite et nous laisse dans une sorte d’état de méditation.

Read the article (in French)

Éric Clément
La Presse

The theme is explored in multiple media by a stellar lineup of contemporary artists. […] Adding considerable heft to the lineup is the presence of Old Masters from the collection, among them no less than Rembrandt and Rodin.

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Credits and curatorial team

An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
It is curated by Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator, MMFA.

Presented by

In collaboration with

Official Sponsor

With support from

Tourisme Montréal

Media Partners

Public Partners

Nick Cave (born in 1959), Soundsuit, 2014. Majudia Collection. © Nick Cave. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Geneviève Cadieux (born in 1955), Hear Me with Your Eyes,1989, 3 prints, cibachrome and gelatin silver, 1/3, 244.8 x 305.3 cm (each panel). MMFA, purchase, Art Sales and Rental Gallery Fund. Photo Annie Fafard

Participants in the mediation space The floor is yours!

The Floor is Yours! Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo Mike Patten.

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