The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can be pleased with results that demonstrate its continued success at the close of fiscal year 2016-2017, which was one of expansion, travelling exhibitions and a demanding transition. Despite the challenges of completing projects on time and on budget, there were no delays or overspending to regret in the delivery of the new spaces and the reinstallation of the collections of international art. The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace is garnering praise and bringing in crowds of visitors. Nor were there any delays or overspending involved with our many exhibitions presented here and elsewhere. The MMFA circulated exhibitions to a record eight cities while mounting exhibitions and inaugurating a new building here at home. Exhibitions are keeping up their relentless seasonal pace. Chagall: Colour and Music has been an outstanding success.
Thank you to the 270 people who make up this winning team. Every individual involved deserves applause. The Museum’s surface area and collections have both increased. Now it is time to consolidate our unique corporate culture with a renewed vision and concrete action. I have admiration and considerable fondness for this team of talented professionals, these indispensable kindred spirits.
Thank you to the MMFA’s 430 volunteers. Each one of the Museum’s volunteers supports, encourages, inspires and energizes the Museum, and they have earned the confidence of the Board of Trustees and its chairman, Jacques Parisien. Their commitment to a private non-profit organization is an example of citizens’ governance, a form of political activism that benefits the city. They are part of the equation that is carrying us beyond academic research to become a museum that promotes values that bring us all together. I am fully persuaded that the MMFA is a driver of social progress.
Thank you to our 977,392 visitors for the year as of March 31, 2017. During the fiscal year that just ended, the Museum welcomed more visitors than the previous year (956,168) despite months of disruption around the Museum due to major construction work on Sherbrooke Street and the building of our new wing. Eighty thousand people came to see the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace during the open house. We are confident that, with the new educational facilities of the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy, the MMFA can expect over a million visitors this year.
Thank you to the 2.6 million visitors to our travelling exhibitions. There were more than 500,000 visitors for Metamorphoses: In Rodin’s Studio; 115,000 for 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group; and 2,042,600 for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. One cycle of the Museum’s travelling exhibitions is ending as another begins. After a five-year international tour to twelve cities, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier will conclude its parade through the world of fashion with Love Is Love, a “happily ever after” presentation of the most beautiful haute couture wedding gowns for all kinds of couples, while other exhibitions now in preparation will soon go out on the road.
Thank you to our 109,010 VIP members as of March 31, 2017. The Museum has broken another record thanks to the quality of its exhibitions and the innovative tailor-made membership programmes devised by the Museum Foundation, not to mention the new spaces for members to provide improved services. This figure puts us at the forefront of all Canadian museums and in sixth place among North American museums, according to the Association of Art Museum Directors.
Although our history of sharing our collective heritage goes back over 150 years, we are very aware of the need for renewal. Rooted in history, its heart in its city and its head in the stars, the Museum constantly seeks to reinvent itself. Its culture of innovation aims to preserve its social relevance and remain active not only for the national and international academic community but also for all Montrealers. Far from an ivory-towered keeper of our heritage, the Museum intends to position itself as an inclusive and civic-minded builder.
In 2017-2018, we will concentrate on consolidating our growth and modernizing operations to keep in step with our institution’s recently increased size. Next spring, our reinstalled galleries of world cultures – our Asian, African, Native American and Oceanian collections, as well as European archaeology – will focus on inter-cultural harmony.
Beyond the various disciplines of art history, the MMFA is asserting itself as an empathetic partner, free of complexes and divisions. Many past experiences and future projects attest to a creative freedom that makes our institution a force that is not only entrepreneurial but also political, in the root meaning of the term, that is, of use to the citizens (polites in Greek): innovative forms of co-operation, unifying values, bold pluri-disciplinarity, a thirst for experimentation without fear of failure, a focus on education and respect for our audiences are the motors of development that we must develop.
As in nature, the culture of innovation is a race without a finish line. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice runs beside the Red Queen at top speed, but curiously enough, “the trees and the other things round them never changed their places.” The Queen explains, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”