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About the Museum

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion
Credit

Founded in 1860, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is the oldest art museum in Canada and a leading museum in North America. Its collection showcases Quebec and Canadian heritage and international art from a critical and intercultural perspective, and comprises more then 45,000 paintings, sculptures, graphic art works, photographs, multimedia installations and decorative art objects dating from antiquity to the present.

The MMFA’s exhibitions span every discipline from archaeology to fine arts, to contemporary practices. Laid out over five interconnecting pavilions, the Museum complex includes over 80 exhibition galleries, the Bourgie concert hall, an auditorium and movie theatre, the Boutique and Bookstore, an in-house publishing department, a public sculpture garden and the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy. A pioneering museum in the provision of art therapy, the MMFA works with the community, education, health and technology sectors to give all people exposure to art through inclusive and enriching experiences.

Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace
Credit
James L.Weston, Vue de l’édifice de l’Art Association, square Phillips, à Montréal, photolithographie colorée (première page du Canadian Illustrated News, 31 mai 1879).

The story of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

1860-2020, 160 years of history

1860
1910
1950
1970
1990
2010
2016
2020
Discover 160 years of History

Founding
(1860-1910)

James L. Weston, View of Art Association Building, Phillips Square, Montreal, coloured photolithograph (cover page of Canadian Illustrated News, May 31, 1879). Purchase, Mr. and Mrs Gerald Bronfman Fund for Master Graphics, 1964.

James L. Weston, about 1815–1896, active in Canada, View of the Art Association Building, Phillips Square, Montreal, Coloured photolithograph (cover page of Canadian Illustrated News, May 31, 1879), 30.4 x 28.2 cm (sheet), 24.4 x 24 cm (image). Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Bronfman Fund for Master Graphics.

1860

Establishment of the Art Association of Montreal (the first art museum in Canada) to “encourage an appreciation of the fine arts amongst the people of the city.”

1879

Opening of the first Art Gallery in Montreal’s Phillips Square.

Main gallery Detail of the hanging arrangement, 1879.

Notman & Sandham, The 1879 Art Gallery, Phillips Square, main gallery, detail of the hanging arrangement, 1879, albumenized paper. McCord Museum, Montreal. Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. Inv. VIEW-1051.1. Photo McCord Museum, Montreal

Mission
(1910-1950)

Edward Maxwell, architect, 1913.

Wm. Notman & Son
Edward Maxwell, architect (detail), 1913, black and white photograph. Archives, MMFA.

Edward Maxwell, architect, 1913.

Wm. Notman & Son
Edward Maxwell, architect (detail), 1913, black and white photograph. Archives, MMFA.

1912

Relocation of the Art Gallery to a new building on Sherbrooke Street (today’s Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion).

The Art Association’s new art gallery, the Sherbrooke Street facade 1913

Wm. Notman & Son, The Art Association’s new Art Gallery, Sherbrooke Street, the Sherbrooke Street facade (detail), 1913, Gelatin dry plate. McCord Museum, Montreal. Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. Inv. VIEW-13052. Photo McCord Museum, Montreal.

1916

Creation of the department of decorative arts and traditional arts, establishing its mission as an encyclopedic museum.

Identity
(1950-1970)

historical photo of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, ladies with tour guide in front of painting

1950

The Art Association is renamed the
 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Picasso, exhibition poster, 1964.

Picasso, exhibition poster, 1964. Archives, MMFA.

1960

Celebration of the Museum’s centennial and the democratization of art, including, for the first time, support from benefactors in the French-speaking community.

1961

Creation of an education department.

Democratization
(1970-1990)

Michal and Renata Hornstein pavilion

1972

The Museum’s status changes from a private institution to a mixed non-profit corporation.

Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion, exterior view.

Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion, exterior view. Photo: MMFA, Denis Farley.

1976

Opening of a second pavilion (today’s Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion).

1980

A turning point in the Museum’s history, with unconventional exhibitions such as Tintin (1980) and Leonardo da Vinci (1987) attracting new audiences.

Opening up to the World and a multidisciplinary approach
(1990-2010)

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion

Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest

1991

Opening of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, the Museum’s third.

1994

Création de la Fondation du MBAM pour recueillir des fonds privés et assurer un financement à long terme par des dons capitalisés.

Liliane and David M. Stewart, 1981-1982.

Liliane and David M. Stewart (detail), 1981–82, colour photograph. Archives, Macdonald Stewart Foundation.

1997

The Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, founded by Liliane and David M. Stewart in 1979, takes up residence at the Museum; it will merge with the MMFA in 2000.

Tiffany Studios, New York, Angel of the Resurrection, leaded-glass window

Tiffany Studios, New York, Angel of the Resurrection, leaded-glass window, about 1931, 190 x 63 cm, after a 1904 design by Frederick Wilson. Erskine and American Church, Montreal.

2008

The Arte Musica Foundation is created and takes up residence at the Museum.

Exponential expansion
(2010-2016)

Photo of the inside of Bourgie Hall, with a piano on stage

Photo: Bernard Fougère

2011

Opening of the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion, the Museum’s fourth, as well as the inauguration of the Bourgie Concert Hall; major reinstallation of 4,000 works in the Museum’s four pavilions.

Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy

Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy
Photo © Marc Cramer

2012

Creation of the Michel de La Chenelière Art & Education StudiO, doubling the facilities for educational activities.

Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy

2016

Over 1 million visitors, 107,000 members and 300,000 participants in educational, cultural and community activities.

An engaged, humanist Museum
(2016-2020)

Inauguration of the Pavilion for Peace, the Museum’s fifth, which houses 700 works of international art, from Old Masters to modern pieces, including those of the Hornstein donation.

Expanded spaces for family, educational and community activities; addition of art therapy programs.

Reinstallation of 2,500 works from the World Cultures, Decorative Arts and Design collections in the other pavilions.

Governance

Annual Reports

Manuel Mathieu (born in 1986), The Redemption, 2020, acrylic, chalk, charcoal and masking paper on canvas, with silicone resin blocks. MMFA, gift of Manuel Mathieu. Photo Guy L'Heureux
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