With 450 ongoing partnerships with associations, clinics, hospitals, research centres and universities, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has established itself as an internationally recognized model through the diversity and scope of its activities in Montreal’s social realm.
Art does us good – on both a societal and an individual level. Culture is the focus of 100% of our discussions on issues associated with integrating the multicultural model into our new intercultural era, it but represents a mere 1% of our budgets, and this is true not only in Quebec. We believe, however, that culture has a supra-ministerial mandate. While support for artists and for the history of art remains central to the museum’s mission, it is not enough.
We must rethink art as a force of social cohesion and individual well-being. Whereas the twentieth century promoted our primal side, with our newly liberated bodies – in both the arts and psychology – I share philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky’s belief that the twenty-first century will value our experiential being in our virtual world.
By rethinking the relevance of the institution, which means asking whether a museum should question, discuss and engage in the important issues of its day. Rather than being merely a strongbox holding a capital of artworks – assets in the informal exchange market that regulates the economy of events –, the museum should pursue broader values, and not only in the context of specific exhibitions.
By rethinking the collections, which means being willing to throw the doors of our fine arts museum wide open to other disciplines, contemplating the works in all their complexity by considering all possible perspectives. Looking beyond their place in art history, the works should be freed from the confines of heterogeneous disciplinary scripts in order to touch on all fields of knowledge, spark discussion and bring latent ideas into consciousness.
By rethinking the nature of our public, which means reconsidering our visitors as living, experiential beings. The human need for “beauty,” or at least for aesthetic sentiment, is physiological, and not just philosophical or cultural. A museum is a school for the senses, where we can connect with our emotional side. In this regard, like love or friendship, aesthetic feeling sparks a positive sense of well-being. As neuroscience has demonstrated, art is a “soft power” that stimulates our empathic circuit.
By rethinking context, which means establishing co-creative partnerships with experts in other fields – schools, organizations, associations, institutes and universities – not to coalesce but to evolve together. Making ourselves available to the agents of social change requires humility, generosity, flexibility, responsiveness, open-mindedness and ingenuity. Fostering and nourishing interdisciplinarity will henceforth be an integral part of a “creactive” museum’s DNA.
With our exhibitions From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-face Picasso, Past and Present and Here We are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, we are launching a project (reinstallations, acquisitions, education, associations…) for a more inclusive cultural diversity. These exhibitions are precursors to the MMFA’s new wing for World Cultures and Togetherness, which is to be inaugurated thanks to Stéphan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery, new major donors of the Museum. Their exceptional support, engagement and generosity are essential to the realization of this project that looks to the future of our cultural metropolis in the new century.