Founded in 1860 as the Art Association of Montreal, the main building opened in 1912 and was designed by architects Edward and William S. Maxwell in the Beaux Arts style. Among the oldest art institutions in Canada, the museum is composed of three pavilions, with a fourth pavilion under construction. The original building is known as the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion. Annexed to the back of this building is the Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavillion and across the street is the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion designed by Moshe Safdie and built in 1991. Permanent and temporary exhibitions are located in all three pavilions.
The museum is centrally located downtown, just a few blocks out of the underground city and near some very posh shopping. There are two main buildings: one modern and the other in the classical Beaux Arts Style. The two buildings are linked by an underground tunnel that also is an exhibition space for sculptures and ceramics. We enjoyed that the works of art are organized thematically, allowing us to pick and choose which period we wanted to visit first. I particularly enjoyed the Canadian Art collection showcasing 17 th century to modern day Canadian artists such as Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Emile Borduas.
The Decorative Arts and Design collection located in an adjoining pavilion caught our attention. It was entertaining to see the evolution of furniture and various utilitarian objects assembled in chronological order. We found the map of the floor plan particularly useful. The staff were also polite and helpful and even the security guards were able to give us information on the collection. We quite enjoyed strolling through the collections although the next time we visit, we will first look up the website for the tour hours.
Average Duration Of Visit
Handicapped Access Yes
How To Get There There was no indoor parking. There was metered street parking in the area as well as several parking lots. The Museum easily accessible by public transit: 24 bus line or the Metro Guy-Concordia.
Location Downtown Montreal in the historic Golden Square Mile. We took the metro to Guy-Concordia and walked three blocks north to Sherbrooke Street.
Size Of Museum There were three pavilions with a fourth pavilion scheduled to open in 2011 and a collection of 35,000 art objects.
Type Of Museum The vocation of the MMFA is to promote the work of Canadian and international artists past and present. The MMFA has built up a collection of over 35,000 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, prints, drawings, photographs and decorative art objects from antiquity to today. These collections are divided into Ancient Cultures, European Art, Canadian Art, Inuit and Amerindian Art, Contemporary Art and Decorative Arts and Design.
Pre-Columbian art to contemporary North American artists are represented in the galleries of the museum. I particularly liked several exhibitions such as the Napoleon and the arts of the First Empire, a collection of Napoleonic memorabilia donated by the estate of the late Ben Weider. This collection contains a hat worn by Napoleon during the Russian campaign of 1812 as well as over 100 artifacts that belonged to Napoleon and his time. I also liked the Sacred Africa II, a collection of sculptures, masks and objects from Central and West Africa organized in collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Redpath Museum and McGill University. These objects are a source of inspiration for the costumes and make-up used in Cirque du Soleil productions, and are part of the private collection of Guy Laliberté.
Canadian art from the past to the present is well represented in the museum. The Inuit sculptures and the paintings by the Group of Seven are my favourites. One section that gets a little lost is the Decorative Arts and Design section in the Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion, an interesting collection of furniture and objects dating from the first colonials to modern day. This is annexed to the back of the Beaux Arts building and is worth the extra time to find. I found a group of design students sketching on my last visit.
Restaurant The Café des Beaux Arts is a four-star restaurant run by Chef Richard Bastien. Less expensive restaurants and bistros can be found on the streets adjoining the museum, Crescent and Bishop Streets, within easy walking distance. During my visit when visitors entered the museum, they received a sticker providing access all day to the exhibitions. We walked down Crescent Street for a quick bite to eat in a little French-style Bistro and headed back to spend the rest of the afternoon in the museum.
Souvenir Shop I have a fondness for museum shops and the MMFA boutique did not disappoint me. Catalogues of past and present exhibitions were available, postcards, note cards and related books were a joy to leaf through. There were also scarves, jewellery and reproductions for wonderful souvenirs.
Tours Available Guided tours and audio guide tours were available.
A map was available at the entrance of each pavilion and at the cloak rooms and bathrooms. Admission to the permanent exhibitions was free, allowing us to spend as little as an hour or all day visiting the various exhibition spaces. Guided tours of the permanent collection and the cloakroom were also free of charge. The latest addition to the museum family will be on the next corner and adjacent to the Beaux Arts building: the Erskine and American United Church
(built in 1894 and a historic monument). Plans are for it to house Canadian art and be called the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion.
Recommendations Although the exhibition spaces are well laid out, it can get quite confusing to navigate around them. To explore the various pavilions, I find it useful to rely on a map of the floor plans. They are linked by an underground tunnel making it possible to remain within the complex.
Most Recent Visit
Reviewers Article by Andrea de Gosztonyi-McRae
Photos by Andrea de Gosztonyi-McRae
Would You Go Again Yes