Montreal galleries reopen after months of restrictions

Montreal galleries reopen after months of restrictions
Yehouda Chaki (born in 1938), Mi Makir: 30698, 1998-1999, acrylic, India ink and latex. Courtesy of the artist.
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Over the past year, it’s been tough for art lovers to get their fix in reliable ways. With galleries and exhibition spaces in flux with the tide of the pandemic- and some finding their doors shuttered permanently because of it- there has been a revolving door of celebration and disappointment when it comes to viewing opportunities. Montreal has started to inch its way out of yet another lockdown, and with the province of Quebec nearly tied for the highest case totals in Canada, it likely won’t be the last one. But for the time being, there’s some celebration in seeing Montreal galleries reopen like the Musée d’art contemporain and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


Since October of 2020, we haven’t seen Montreal galleries reopen to the public. This long-awaited opportunity to view art in person once again comes from Quebec premier François Legault loosening certain restrictions on businesses within the province. While many believe there hasn’t been enough done to assist those in the fine arts sector during the pandemic, the announcement has been met with an outpouring of support from citizens, reaffirming just how valuable these institutions are to the culture and daily life of a city.


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is now currently able to have just over 100 visitors in its space at a time. Individuals have to reserve a spot online before arrival to ensure protocols are followed. Unfortunately, the permanent exhibits have remained closed for the time being, but they have done what they can to maintain the works on loan. 


Yehouda Chaki’s collection A Search for the Missing is of note in the gallery’s reopening- a series of hundreds of paintings bearing the assigned numbers of Holocaust victims. These haunting works of ghoulish visages were available to view online over the past several months, but this will be the first time they can be seen in person at the museum.


The Musée d’art contemporain has the entirety of its space available for viewing upon reopening, as well as four new exhibitions on display. One such exhibition is John Akomfrah’s video installation Vertigo Sea, weaving together excerpts of nature footage from the BBC’s archival library as well as his own staged footage. Juxtaposing visions such as polar bear hunts, whaling, slave ships, and refugees fleeing by boat, it “weaves together multiple narratives that portray the ocean as a site of terror and of beauty.”


With so much time cut off from the simple viewing pleasures we enjoyed, and with so much of the future still uncertain, small victories such as these are certainly a reason to celebrate. Any art lover can tell you that moving beyond the screen and sharing space with art once again is a truly wholesome and enlivening prospect. Here’s hoping that with Montreal galleries reopening, they’ll get to stay that way.