• Catherine Bolduc (born in 1970), Escape Attempt, 2016, clear polyester film, LED lights, MP3 player, speakers, table, turntables, chair and various objects. Soundtrack by Kerim Yildiz. Loan, private collection. Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière
  • Rebecca Belmore (born in 1960), Mixed Blessing, 2011, cotton jacket, synthetic hair, beads, Hydrocal. MMFA, purchase, Louise Lalonde-Lamarre Memorial Fund. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley and Jean-François Brière
  • Mathieu Lefevre (1981–2011), Rotten Tomatoes, 2011, oil on canvas. Loan, collection of Alain and Erika Lefevre, courtesy of Centre d’art et de diffusion Clark, Montreal. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley


When Contemporary Art and the Art of the Past Meet

Until August 12, 2018

The presentation provides a way to uncover unexpected encounters between the works on display in the new Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace and the installations, sculptures, paintings and photographs by 14 contemporary artists from Quebec and Canada: Edmund Alleyn, Rebecca Belmore, Catherine Bolduc, Dan Brault, Jack Chambers, Pierre Dorion, Karel Funk, Manon Labrecque, Mathieu Lefèvre, Karine Payette, Michael Snow, Marion Wagschal, Kim Waldon and the N.E. Thing Co. collective (Iain & Ingrid Baxter).

The contemporary works exhibited in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion were each freely associated with paintings in the Museum’s international art collection presented in the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace by Paulus Bor, Valentin de Boulogne (known as Valentin), Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Salvador Dalí, Claude Gellée (known as Claude Lorrain), Jan Fyt, Sigmund Holbein, Eugène Isabey, Jacques Linard, Claude Monet, N. L. Peschier, Pieter van Roestraten, Jacques Sablet the Younger and Jean-Joseph Taillasson.

This kindred stylistic, formal and thematic interplay opens the way to timeless aesthetic comparisons and revised genres (still life, portrait, landscape), classic themes (death, family scenes, the redemptive figure, the grotesque), formal similarities (drapery, cubist style) and reinvents past codes through new perspectives. This free association game renews the ancient art in the contemporary context and establishes the contemporary works in a broader historical perspective.

Entitled Mnemosyne for the Greek goddess of memory, the exhibition is based on the approach outlined by German art historian Aby Warburg (1866–1929) in the Mnemosyne Atlas. Warburg’s aim was not to synthesize, describe and classify but rather to tell the history of art by illustrating the fundamental complexity of images and how they interrelate. The method he developed entails pinning pictures of artworks from the same period or on the same subject to a large black panel in order to arrive at associations that reveal the pictures’ formal and conceptual connections that would otherwise go undetected. Warburg’s associative approach is well suited to the discovery—or rediscovery—of the richness of these impromptu aesthetic dialogues.



The exhibition is curated by Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art at the MMFA. The scenography was designed by Sandra Gagné, Head of Exhibitions Productions at the MMFA.

Dan Brault (born in 1979), Lingering in Time’s House (Vanitas), 2016, acrylic and oil on canvas. MMFA, purchase, gift of R. Fournelle. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest


A Series of conversations

Special gatherings to discuss the works on display and the artists’ approach to them, led by Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, Curator of Contemporary Quebec and Canadian Art, MMFA, and Curator of the exhibition. These talks will be held in the Gallery to encourage exchanges with the public.

Places limited, reservation

Wednesday, March 28  – 5 p.m.– Jennifer Alleyn and Nicolas Mavrikakis

Wednesday, April 18 – 5 p.m. – Marion Wagschal and Kim Waldon, Artists


Exhibition Partners

Partner of the Museum’s Contemporary Art Program

The Museum extends its thanks to Quebec’s Ministère de la Culture et des Communications for its essential contribution, and the Conseil des arts de Montréal and the Canada Council for the Arts for their ongoing support.