From the Director




The Arts of One World are to be inaugurated in the upper galleries of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, thanks to key support from Stephan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery. This new presentation involves renaming our World Cultures collection as the Arts of One World.1 Thousands of archaeological works from ancient and traditional cultures will be exhibited in dialogue with contemporary perspectives from both near and far, taking on more complex meanings. The term Tout-Monde, or “One World,” was chosen in reference to the extremely open and far-reaching thought of poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant (1928-2011), who explained: “I call ‘One World’ our universe as it changes and persists through our interactions.”

“Nothing is true, everything is alive.” – EG

What are our so-called “world cultures” collections saying? They document a history of tastes that are evolving through new vantage points. Unique to Quebec, they are filled with as many treasures as imperfections. Complex, sometimes contradictory worlds, these discontinuous continents, formed over the course of acquisitions and gifts, are becoming increasingly populated with contemporary works, giving rise to different aesthetics, dialogues, collisions and encounters… How can they inhabit our spaces while saying something about our world?

The second largest in Canada,2 these collections have been enriched with the help of many experts, lenders and donors, to whom we are grateful. We have also been able to study these works with our dedicated archaeology curators, backed by a network of consultants. Finally, we have strengthened our holdings of culturally diverse contemporary works created by local3 and international artists. We have worked on this several-thousand-piece puzzle of artworks – an amalgam of fragments of realities, collections that are constantly evolving and (de)constructing. Their entirety represents but a snapshot in time: everything shifts, nothing is fixed.

This installation is a humble and modest one, given the immensity of the envisaged cultural lands in relation to our limited spaces and our incomplete collections – rich in pluralities, they are yet meagre in their many silences. Neither teleological narrative nor theoretical argument, this poetic encounter proposes a meandering crisscrossing through the imaginations and traditions of our “chaos-world,” as the poet would put it. We hope to offer an experience of discovery and questioning, of opacity and inconsistency, and of elusiveness and indeterminateness. Visitors can “wander deeper into the woods,” as their gaze leads them across imperceptibly decentred objects, unexpected observations and an aesthetic of the diverse and the discursive, with as many shared inter-subjectivities.

  • Theo Eshetu (born in 1958), Atlas Fractured (detail), 2017, Video 18 min. © Theo Eshetu. Courtesy of the artist and Axis Gallery, New York and New Jersey

“We must change the imaginations of humanities.” – EG

A museum is a place that stores permanent collections that are enriched by the impermanence of our perspectives. In fact, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is debating a new definition of museums that takes into account the decentralization of view in this multipolar century. Developing countries are modernizing not just in the material sense, as pointed out by Jean-Louis Roy: “Its intangible dimension may even be more radical, to the extent that it changes and will change relationships between all legacies, heritages and value systems of the entire world… We are now in an era when people will have to understand what does not look like them.”4 The cohabitation of cultures has never been brought about so rapidly, hence the necessity of thinking of the world as a whole.

Museums are a tool of cultural diplomacy. Their relevance lies not only in their collections but also in their ability to use the exhibited objects to spark reflection. “Openness to the self and to the other are two sides of the same coin. We are in a global age, an age when all humanity shares a common destiny,” wrote Edgar Morin. Like us, he is convinced that aesthetics could play a major role in understanding between human beings. He further added, “Creating unity among the human species while respecting its diversity is a basic idea but also a future-forward one.”5 When stereotypes, rumours and manipulations build up in the incessant social media chatter, contributing to the serenity of our society becomes part of our mission.

Welcome to a wing to give us wings, a dreamlike path where we can imagine this universopolis,6 overcome our differences and conceive of a global citizenship whose sole objective is to address our current issues of living together in mutual respect, achieving sustainable development and protecting life’s diversity.

“Act where you live, think with the whole world.” – EG


  1. During a discussion with our Advisory Committee, Guadeloupe-born Montreal artist Eddy Firmin made the fortunate suggestion that we refer to the Tout-Monde concept by name, as it is in tune with our polyphonic intent. We then presented and validated this idea with Sylvie Glissant, who heads up the Institut du Tout-Monde, created in 2006 on Glissant’s initiative ( We extend our heartfelt thanks to them.
  2. After the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 1916, Frederick Cleveland Morgan opened the Art Association of Montreal to non-Western arts.
  3. In addition to the exhibitions, since 2014 our Impressions artist residencies, with support from the Conseil des arts de Montréal, have been welcoming artists from immigrant backgrounds (including Karen Tam, Naghmeh Sharifi, Pansee Atta and Ari Bayuaji), as well as collaborating with the Darling Foundry (Chih-Chien Wang), Diversité Artistique Montréal and the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. For the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the MMFA also launched an ambitious program, <em>Connections</em>, with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, to commission seven Canadian artists from culturally diverse backgrounds to create works in dialogue with our collections.
  4. Jean-Louis Roy, Bienvenue dans le siècle de la diversité – La nouvelle carte culturelle du monde (Montreal: Stanké, 2014).
  5. Edgar Morin, Sur l’esthétique (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2016).
  6. In reference to Achille Mbembe.