November 28, 2013

MFA offers a music-inspired trip to Venice

By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican

---- — MONTREAL — The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents a musical trip to Venice, a celebratory collection of witty comics, and contemporary and Canadian works.

First up is “Splendore a Venizia — Art and Music from the Renaissance to Baroque in the Serenissima,” a sumptuous array of artifacts that explores the relationships between art and music in the Venetian republic. In all, some 120 paintings, drawings, musical manuscripts and historical instruments are displayed. 

The exhibit explores themes that include “Art and Music in the Public Square,” where the fanfare of ancient ceremonies and processions drew a Venetian crowd; “Art and Music in the Private Realm,” which highlights the musician, the concert setting and street scenes as a popular subjects in paintings; and “Art, Music and Mythology,” which spotlights allegorical and mythical figures as well as the advent of the opera.

Above all, classical music fills the air throughout the exhibit. Of note are a variety of antique historical instruments — many that date to the mid 16th and 17th centuries — including kettledrums; finger cymbals; and an intricate theorbo, a lute-like stringed instrument that would make any modern guitar player blush with envy. The exhibit even manages to squeeze in the most iconic symbol of Venice — a full size gondola.  

“Splendore a Venizia” continues through Jan. 19.


From the extravagant to the clever, the Museum of Fine Arts also displays “Comics at the Museum — 15 Artists from La Pasteque Reinterpret the Collection,” a witty artistic reinvention to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Montreal-based comic publishing house Le Pasteque.

Here, 15 guest artists got to choose an object from the museum’s permanent collection to comically convey a work of art through colorful story panels.

For example, illustrator Michel Rabagliati’s “Sardines” tells the story of a blue-collar guy next door whose job it is to painstakingly place a multi-paneled advertisement for sardines on the side of a building. To the worker’s dismay, a fierce windstorm blows down all of the panels except for one — which happens to be the exact replica of Joan Miro’s abstract oil painting “Head.” 

A gallery owner with an eye for art spots the panel, displays it in his shop, and makes the confused worker the hero of the art world.


In another, artist Pascal Blanchet conveys what Mid Century Modern must feel like for a chair when it comes to life in his work “Plywood Coquetel.” 

The chair in question is an iconic Charles and Ray Eames sculptural work of functional art, the “LCW Chair.” The comic displays a group of said chairs, all invited to a mod cocktail party complete with bow ties, pipes and martini glasses.   

The result is lighthearted subtle humor — in fact, the occasional audible chuckle that emitted from gallery visitors during a recent trip through the exhibit could indeed be heard every now and then. 

“Comics at the Museum” is displayed through March 30.


Also on display, beginning today, the Museum of Fine Arts presents the works of Jules de Balincourt, a young Franco-American artist who offers an array of colorful “picturals” to convey his contemporary art message. Born in Paris, de Balincourt studied in the United States at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco, as well as Hunter College in New York. 

He is now Brooklyn-based, and his works have been presented at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Royal Academy in London and MOMA in New York City. 

The Museum of Fine Arts exhibit is displayed for free now through March 23.

And coming to the museum’s Graphic Arts Centre beginning Dec. 3 is “Lands of Shadow and Light,” a collection of subtle and serene Quebec and Canadian drawings from the museum’s permanent collection.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is at 1380 Sherbrooke St. W. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. The “Venice” exhibition is also open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. Adult admission costs $22.50 for those 31 and older. Discounts are available for ages 13 through 30 and for adults from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays. 

Admission to the permanent collection is always free. Call 514-285-2000 or visit