The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) presents Mnemosyne: When Contemporary Art and the Art of the Past Meet, an exhibition that establishes a dialogue between modern and ancient European art and contemporary art from Quebec and Canada.
The presentation provides a way to uncover unexpected encounters between the works on display in the new Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace and the installations, sculptures, paintings and photographs by 14 contemporary artists from Quebec and Canada: Edmund Alleyn, Rebecca Belmore, Catherine Bolduc, Dan Brault, Jack Chambers, Pierre Dorion, Karel Funk, Manon Labrecque, Mathieu Lefèvre, Karine Payette, Michael Snow, Marion Wagschal, Kim Waldon and the N.E. Thing Co. collective (Iain & Ingrid Baxter).
The contemporary works exhibited in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion were each freely associated with paintings in the Museum’s international art collection presented in the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace by Paulus Bor, Valentin de Boulogne (known as Valentin), Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Salvador Dalí, Claude Gellée (known as Claude Lorrain), Jan Fyt, Sigmund Holbein, Eugène Isabey, Jacques Linard, Claude Monet, N. L. Peschier, Pieter van Roestraten, Jacques Sablet the Younger and Jean-Joseph Taillasson.
This kindred stylistic, formal and thematic interplay opens the way to timeless aesthetic comparisons and revised genres (still life, portrait, landscape), classic themes (death, family scenes, the redemptive figure, the grotesque), formal similarities (drapery, cubist style) and reinvents past codes through new perspectives. This free association game renews the ancient art in the contemporary context and establishes the contemporary works in a broader historical perspective.
Entitled Mnemosyne for the Greek goddess of memory, the exhibition is based on the approach outlined by German art historian Aby Warburg (1866–1929) in the Mnemosyne Atlas. Warburg’s aim was not to synthesize, describe and classify but rather to tell the history of art by illustrating the fundamental complexity of images and how they interrelate. The method he developed entails pinning pictures of artworks from the same period or on the same subject to a large black panel in order to arrive at associations that reveal the pictures’ formal and conceptual connections that would otherwise go undetected. Warburg’s associative approach is well suited to the discovery—or rediscovery—of the richness of these impromptu aesthetic dialogues.
“The Mnemosyne exhibition is like a panorama of contemporary Quebec and Canadian art with diverse and surprising visual and media art proposals. It is also a playful invitation to visitors to build bridges between contemporary works and art from the past through aesthetic associations. It is very fitting to update the method developed by Aby Warburg in the Mnemosyne Atlas in the context of this exhibition considering that the Web and smartphones are now part of the visitor experience at the Museum. In creating this highly colourful, emotional and experimental exhibition, we sought to provide art-goers of all ages with a place of gathering, discussion, reflection and bursts of laughter,” explained Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art at the MMFA.
The exhibition is curated by Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art at the MMFA.
The scenography was designed by Sandra Gagné, Head of Exhibitions Productions at the MMFA.