A major artist of our time, Nicolas Party is known for his meticulously composed paintings, his painted sculptures and his installations drenched in saturated colours. Through over 100 works and a series of large-scale murals realized in situ, he unveils a dreamlike exhibition themed on nature at the MMFA.
A meditation on nature
L’heure mauve (Mauve Twilight) brings together watercolours, pastels and sculptures by Party, including about 20 recent works yet to be exhibited. The landscapes, portraits and still lifes, at once fantastical and subtle, illustrate the complex and often inextricable ties that bind humans to nature. The whole is integrated with temporary murals created in oil pastels, such that the Museum’s galleries become the canvas onto which this visual artist and muralist – cum curator and exhibition designer – expresses his poetic imagination. In all, it is a celebratory as well as solemn meditation on nature, its representation in art and its future.
A selection of the MMFA’s works
The artist’s creations are set against some 50 works from the Museum’s wide-ranging collection. Painstakingly chosen by the artist, they include paintings by Gustave Courbet, Ferdinand Hodler, Henri Fantin-Latour, Nicolas Poussin, Otto Dix and Lawren S. Harris. Incidentally, the title of the exhibition references an iconic painting by Canadian Symbolist painter Ozias Leduc. “Mauve twilight” – that fleeting moment when the fading light casts purple hues over the landscape – resonates powerfully with Party, who sees in it an aura of mystery and beauty. Together, the works and the setting of this large-scale exhibition thus weave a touching and hopeful story about the fate of the natural world.
About the artist
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1980, Nicolas Party got his artistic start as a graffiti artist before pursuing a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (2004) and a Master of Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art (2009). His work has recently been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions, including at the MASI Lugano (2020), the FLAG Art Foundation in New York (2019), the M WOODS Museum in Beijing (2018), the Musée Magritte in Brussels (2018) and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (2017). He lives and works in New York and Brussels.
Drawing on his vast knowledge of art history, Party weaves a singular and profound oeuvre that exalts pictorial conventions. Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, Giorgio Morandi, Rosalba Carriera and Félix Vallotton, he revisits the classic codes of art, abandoning faithful representations of nature in favour of an original, phantasmagorical exploration of colour and shapes.
An exhibition set to song by Pierre Lapointe
At the Museum’s invitation, Quebec singer-songwriter-composer Pierre Lapointe created a soundtrack comprised of 14 songs that add a musical dimension to this major immersive exhibition.
Structured in seven themes, the album contains original creations and revisits works by masters of song from Quebec and abroad – from Félix Leclerc to Kurt Weill, as well as Charles Aznavour, Claude Léveillé and Pete Seeger. Produced by Lapointe and arranged by Philippe Brault, its sounds combine piano, guitars, percussion and voice. Some of the titles – in which the Molinari Quartet notably participated – integrate beguiling arrangements composed of choral music, strings and wind instruments.
To enhance your experience of the exhibition with its musical accompaniment, you will need to have your smartphone and headset with you. Then, in the galleries, you will scan the QR codes that take you to a selection of music streaming services on which the soundtrack is available.
The album is on sale at the MMFA Boutique and Bookstore and at the Bonsound online store for $39.95. L’Heure mauve is also available on the main digital music platforms.
In the heart of the exhibition with Nicolas Party
In connection with the exhibition, the MMFA is offering a host of activities for all audiences:
- A series of exciting events and lectures
- A number of creative workshops for families
- Afternoon guided tours, Wednesdays through Saturdays, as well as Volunteer Guides on hand in the galleries.
- One Wednesday each month, from 5 to 9 p.m., a Monochrome Party, featuring music, coloured cocktails, creative workshops… and films that have been specially selected by Nicolas Party for these events.
The activities are progressively added to our cultural calendar. Consult it regularly to see what’s new!
In the media
Le moment est venu de mettre le nez dehors pour entrer dans un monde de portraits aux couleurs vibrantes, de murales somptueuses et de paysages surréalistes. […] Une fête de couleurs éblouissantes qui fait voler en éclats la morosité pandémique.
Dans la vie, il y a des expositions dont on pressent qu’elles vous marqueront à jamais. [...] L’heure mauve est de cette trempe.
A sumptuous, immersive experience enhanced by the musical accompaniment of Pierre Lapointe’s thematically linked songs.
The Montreal Gazette
Nicolas Party’s cheerful, graphic landscapes take over the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The Globe and Mail
Une immersion fantasmagorique et intemporelle dans les couleurs et les formes.
Maître du pastel, muraliste, mais aussi commissaire et metteur en scène de cette brillante promenade pour les sens, l’artiste invité marque un grand coup, dont on sort ravis, ébahis et heureux.
Le résultat est à couper le souffle. […] Il faut donc profiter de cette beauté, au moment où c’est encore « l’heure mauve ».
ICI Radio-Canada Télé, Téléjournal
Nicolas Party creates figurative paintings with a difference. He uses pastel to make colourful, surreal artworks.
Ça donne quelque chose d’exceptionnel qui va plaire autant au jeune public qu’à un public plus aguerri. […] C’est vraiment une exposition à ne pas manquer.
ICI Radio-Canada Première, Tout un matin
Abundantly illustrated, Nicolas Party : L’heure mauve is an essential reference book on the work of the Swiss artist. Produced by the MMFA’s Publishing Department, in collaboration with 5 Continents Editions, Milan, it documents the making of the exhibition and retraces the themes covered in it. This French-English bilingual catalogue contains an introduction by Stéphane Aquin, Director of the MMFA, as well as an essay by art historian Bénédicte Ramade. In addition, each chapter is prefaced by an original lyric by Pierre Lapointe as well as the lyrics of songs from the musical repertoire that Lapointe reinterpreted for the exhibition soundtrack.
The catalogue Nicolas Party : L’heure mauve is available at the Museum Boutique and Bookstore.
Credits and curatorial team
An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
It is curated by Nicolas Party, in collaboration with Stéphane Aquin, Director, MMFA, and Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator, MMFA.
The Museum wishes to underscore the invaluable support of the following art galleries: Hauser & Wirth, Xavier Hufkens, Karma, kaufmann repetto, The Modern Institute and Gregor Staiger.
In collaboration with
With support from
Nicolas Party (born in 1980), Sunrise, 2018, soft pastel on linen, 160 x 180 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels. © Nicolas Party. Photo Isabelle Arthuis
Nicolas Party (born in 1980), Still Life, 2017, soft pastel on linen, 140 x 110 cm. Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, long-term loan from Associazione ProMuseo. © Nicolas Party. Photo Isabelle Arthuis
Nicolas Party (born in 1980), Tree Trunk, 2015, soft pastel on linen, 150 x 80 cm. The Silvie Fleming Collection, London. © Nicolas Party. Photo Andrea Rossetti
Ozias Leduc (1864-1955), Mauve Twilight, 1921, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 92.4 x 76.8 cm. MMFA, purchase, gift of Mrs. Samuel Bronfman in honour of the 70th birthday of her husband. © Estate of Ozias Leduc / SOCAN (2022). Photo MMFA, Brian Merrett
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918), The Woodcutter, 1910, oil on canvas, 131.8 x 106 cm. MMFA, on loan from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
Lawren S. Harris (1885-1970), Mount Temple, about 1925, oil on canvas, 122 x 134.6 cm. MMFA, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest. Photo MMFA
Nicolas Party, photo Axel Dupeux. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Pierre Lapointe. © Nicolas Party. Photo Richmond Lam