The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) eagerly and happily welcomes the financial commitment made by the Canadian government, giving the green light to the museum’s major transformation project put forward in 2011. It comes in addition to the commitment confirmed by Québec’s Ministère de la Culture et des Communications.
On May 13, 2016, Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage—speaking on behalf of Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities (Canada)—and Hélène David, Acting Minister of Culture and Communications of Québec, announced financial contributions of nearly $19 million each for the MAC’s transformation project, which will be supplemented by a contribution of $7 million from the Fondation du MAC, for a total of $44.7 million.
The project will allow the Musée to carry out its mission even more fully and vigorously, and will bolster its role as Canada’s premier museum of contemporary art.
“Renewing the MAC means attracting ever growing, new and varied publics by building an engaging, magical space for art and all kinds of other encounters; it means making the museum a more welcoming place for visitors and offering them a venue they will want to come to, and come to regularly. Renewing the MAC also means significantly increasing the area of its exhibition spaces, and providing it with the tools and means for properly presenting the art that is current today: experimental works in the expanding realms of digital, image, sound, installation and performance art.”
John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator
The museum’s limited space restricts the accessibility of its Collection, only 1.5% of which is on display for visitors. That is why, since 2004, the museum has been pondering the options it has available to extend its reach and meet the expectations of an ever growing public. Enlarging our space is crucial if this unique contemporary art collection is to be properly showcased.
Equally importantly, the growing diversity of current artistic practices—be it performance, installation, digital or video art—is forcing all museums of contemporary art to rethink their spaces in order to be able to present exhibitions by contemporary artists in suitable environments, very often quite different from the traditional “White Box.”
In 2013, a feasibility study was conducted for a transformation project that would allow many of the Musée’s initial objectives to be achieved. The study confirmed the possibility of a transformation project that would considerably enlarge the museum’s exhibition areas and multifunction spaces, at the same time as it would increase self-generated revenue and resolve certain technical issues.
Transforming, growing – and being more welcoming to visitors
The MAC transformation project will enable it to fully carry out its mission by increasing the spaces devoted to displaying its Collection and to its educational mandate, and by improving the museum experience through various related services, while also boosting its self-generated revenue.
The consideration of the project consequently revolves around a number of objectives:
- increasing the area of the exhibition galleries
- improving the visibility and accessibility of the main entrance
- enlarging the education service’s spaces and increasing its capacity
- relocating the museum’s commercial spaces
- enhancing visitors’ museum experience
- upgrading the facilities
- improving the museum’s atmosphere.
The museum’s interior spaces will be redesigned and reconfigured. The project announced thus involves a transformation, not an expansion. The work is currently planned to begin by fall 2018 and be carried out over a period of two years. Prior to that, the Musée will consult with Quartier des Spectacles stakeholders and will hold an architectural competition. While the work is going on, the museum will operate at reduced capacity, with full reopening scheduled for fall 2020.
The Fondation du Musée will launch a major fundraising campaign with a target of $7 million in order to help finance the project. It is already possible to make a donation.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is entering a pivotal stage in its development.
With a view to the future environment in which it will operate, the Musée has set seven strategic priorities, each of them based on a series of pertinent objectives and specific actions:
- Exhibit, disseminate, stimulate and promote contemporary art.
- Collect in order to build and enrich the Musée Collection.
- Educate, explore, develop knowledge.
- Communicate, welcome, entertain, build a loyal public.
- Digitize, create, disseminate digital cultural content.
- Manage, empower, optimize.
- Transform, grow, be more welcoming to visitors.
We are proud of the work accomplished thus far. We are ending the 2015-2016 year with attendance of nearly 400,000 visitors, which represents a 51% increase over the previous year, which was itself up nearly 19%.
We anticipate an additional 50% increase in attendance when the museum reopens in 2020. We are therefore looking ahead to the future, to this new, evolving Musée, with a great deal of resolve and optimism.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MACM) was founded in 1964 by the Québec government at the instigation of Montréal artists and collectors who wanted to see an institution established to build a collection of recent works by artists from Montréal, Québec, Canada and around the world.
In 1992, the Musée relocated from Cité du Havre to Place des Arts. This move enabled it to work toward fulfilling its mission of democratizing contemporary art. Annual attendance doubled (from 50,000 admissions in 1983 to 110,000 in 1992) and has risen steadily since then, to nearly 400,000 visitors in 2016.
A unique collection
The Collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal comprised some 3,600 artworks by Québec, Canadian and international artists in 1992. That same year, the Lavalin Collection was added to the museum’s holdings, bringing the Collection to more than 4,800 works. Since then, the Musée Collection has grown every year thanks to its donors and the efforts of its Board of Trustees, its Foundation and its volunteers who take part in fundraising activities.
The Musée has become a major Québec and Canadian institution, with a Collection that today totals nearly 8,000 works.
An exceptional site
Locating the museum on the Place des Arts site in 1992 proved to be a visionary, decisive choice. The Musée’s current site places it on the path taken daily by tens of thousands of Montrealers and visitors to Place des Arts and the surrounding buildings. People move through the underground passageway linking the Musée to Place-des-Arts metro station nearly six million times in total annually.
In 2002, the idea of an entertainment district, the Quartier des Spectacles, rallied support from the great majority of participants in the Sommet de Montréal. A few years later, the Place des Arts esplanade saw more than 3.3 million festival-goers and, in 2009, a new Place des Festivals was inaugurated immediately to the west of the Musée. Today, nearly eight million people visit the Quartier des Spectacles every year. This urbanistic and architectural redefinition of the neighbourhood positions the museum at the heart of the city’s cultural life, between Place des Arts and Place des Festivals. However, the Musée has not been able to take advantage of the throngs that flock to the Quartier des Spectacles.
The fact is, the Musée’s access routes were built in 1992, in an entirely different context, and they no longer fit in with its exterior surroundings, which have undergone massive change. One example we could cite is the location of the main entrance, which is set back from street, on the Place des Arts esplanade. The transformation of Jeanne-Mance from a general thoroughfare into an expansive pedestrian space (Place des Festivals), bustling with life day and night, should have given the Musée outstanding visibility, since it runs all along Place des Festivals, from Rue Sainte-Catherine to Boulevard de Maisonneuve. Unfortunately, though, there is no opening providing a way into the museum from the Place, and this deprives it of valuable visibility, as well as an opening onto the vibrant activity of the neighbourhood.
Without doubt, the MAC enjoys the most extraordinary location of any museum in Montréal today, but it cannot take full advantage of it because of the design of the building and its access points, which are located inside and on the Place des Arts esplanade. This configuration, understandable in 1992, now represents a barrier holding back the museum’s development.
Transforming the museum’s relationship with the city by opening it up onto the intersection of Sainte-Catherine and Jeanne-Mance streets, onto Place des Festivals, and by emphasizing, through transparency, the link with Espace Georges-Émile-Lapalme (the space through which visitors access the Musée from inside Place des Arts), appears to be an essential condition for realizing its full potential.