The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) welcomes the financial commitment made by the Canadian government, giving the green light to the major renewal project announced by the museum 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 renewal project, which will be supplemented by a contribution of $7 million from the museum’s Foundation, for a total investment of $44.7 million.
This project will enable the MAC to carry out its mission even more fully and vigorously, while bolstering its status as Canada’s premier museum of contemporary art.
“Renewing the MAC means attracting new, diversified and ever-growing audiences 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 back to again and again. Renewing the MAC also means significantly increasing the area of its exhibition spaces and giving it the necessary tools and means to showcase 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 considering the options available to extend its reach and meet the expectations of an ever-growing audience. 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, which are very often quite different from the traditional “white box” design.
In 2013, a feasibility study was conducted for a renewal project that would meet many of the MAC’s initial objectives. The study confirmed the possibility of a renewal project that would considerably enlarge the museum’s exhibition areas and multifunctional spaces, while at the same time increasing self-generated revenue and resolving certain technical issues.
Transform, grow and offer a better visitor experience
The MAC’s renewal 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 several 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
As part of its renewal project, the museum’s interior spaces will be redesigned and reconfigured. Work is currently scheduled to begin by fall 2018 and will span a period of two years. Prior to that, the MAC will consult with Quartier des Spectacles stakeholders and hold an architectural design competition. The museum will operate at reduced capacity during the work, with a full reopening scheduled for fall 2020.
The MAC’s Foundation will launch a major fundraising campaign with a target of $7 million to help finance the project. However, 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 adapting to the major forces shaping its environment, the MAC has set seven strategic priorities, each based on a series of related objectives and specific actions:
- Exhibit, disseminate, stimulate and promote contemporary art
- Build and enrich the MAC’s collection
- Educate, explore and develop knowledge
- Communicate, welcome, entertain and build visitor loyalty
- Digitize, create and disseminate digital cultural content
- Manage, empower and optimize
- Transform, grow and offer a better visitor experience
We are proud of the work accomplished thus far. Attendance for the year 2015–2016 was nearly 400,000 visitors, 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. It is thus with a sense of great determination that we are looking ahead to the future of our new, evolving museum.
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 MAC relocated from the Cité du Havre to Place des Arts. This move enabled it to work toward fulfilling its mission of making contemporary art more accessible. Annual attendance doubled (from 50,000 admissions in 1983 to 110,000 in 1992) and has risen steadily since then, reaching 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 MAC’s 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 MAC 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 MAC’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. Each year, approximately six million trips are made through the underground passageway linking the MAC to Place-des-Arts metro station.
In 2002, the idea of an entertainment district, called 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 welcomed more than 3.3 million festival-goers and, in 2009, a new Place des Festivals was inaugurated immediately to the west of the museum. Today, nearly eight million people visit the Quartier des Spectacles every year. This urban 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 MAC has not been able to take full advantage of the throngs that flock to the Quartier des Spectacles.
This is because the museum’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 is the location of the main entrance, which is set back from the 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 MAC outstanding visibility, since it runs along the entire length of Place des Festivals, from Sainte-Catherine Street to De Maisonneuve Boulevard. Unfortunately, though, there is no opening providing a way into the museum from the Place des Festival, and this deprives it of valuable visibility as well as of a window onto the vibrant activity of the neighbourhood.
Without a 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, while understandable in 1992, now represents an impediment to 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 and onto Place des Festivals, and by emphasizing the link with Espace Georges-Émile-Lapalme (the space through which visitors access the MAC from inside Place des Arts), appears to be an essential condition for realizing its full potential.