Canada’s art museums re-emerge from the pandemic with local talent and international stars


Yoko Ono and John Lennon keep their bed-in for peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in 1969.Ivor Sharp / Yoko Ono

Travel and shipping restrictions caused by the pandemic have shaken up the works of major art museums. Their biggest exhibitions, blockbusters, rely on international loans that became impossible in 2020, with delays and cancellations tumbling through 2021. There are still many signs of the continued pressures the pandemic has placed on programming: The lineup includes an occasional international art star, but also relies on practical local efforts. Here are five highlights.

“How long does it take for one voice to reach another?” »At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, from Sept. 11 to Feb. 13. 2022

Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to their mother, a wooden megaphone created by Rebecca Belmore.Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada’s premier hotbed for international blockbusters, fared better than some of its sister institutions when the pandemic struck: its big summer show for 2020 was collection-based Swiss Post-Impressionist art that had already arrived when the border closed. More than a year later, the museum must now turn to its own cabinets for programming and offer a multidisciplinary thematic show from its permanent collection. Using everything from pre-Columbian artefacts and ancient Persian manuscripts to 21st century Canadian art, MMFA curators consider the voice in the visual arts to be a source of human contact that is both literal and symbolic. The title cites a 1991 stainless steel work by Quebec artist Betty Goodwin that is permanently inscribed in the floor of the museum.

Picasso: Painting of the Blue Period at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, October 6 to January 16, 2022

The Blue Room, by Pablo Picasso.Pablo Picasso, The blue room, 1901. The Phillips collection © The estate of Pablo Picasso via AP

After a 15-month delay, the Art Gallery of Ontario plans to open its exhibition dedicated to Picasso’s early works this fall. The exhibition traces the very beginning of the artist’s career, from 1901 to 1904, and is inspired by the X-rays that the AGO and the Phillips Collection in Washington made on their respective canvases from the Blue Period. In addition to revealing the artist’s method of painting, Painting the Blue Period will examine how he stylistically borrowed from his contemporaries and found subjects in current affairs and contemporary life as he commuted between Paris and Barcelona. . The show includes more than 100 objects from 15 countries.

Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, September 10 to January 16, 2022, and the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, February 19 to May 8, 2022

Head of a Woman, by Pegi Nicol MacLeod. / The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection did not have to wait for international loans to mount Uninvited, an exhibition dedicated to Canadian women artists of the turn of the 20th century. Yet this spectacle, initially intended as a counterweight to the planned hype of the Group of Seven’s centenary in May 2020, has been delayed for more than a year by the pandemic. It’s an awaited look at the many female artists – not just Emily Carr but also Prudence Heward, Marion Long, Paraskeva Clark, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Frances Loring and Florence Wyle – who have been eclipsed by the myth of bold outdoor enthusiasts. of the group. Following this Ontario screening, the show will be presented at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary next winter.

Greater Toronto Art 2021 (GTA 21) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto from September 29 to January 9, 2022

Since opening on Sterling Road in 2017, MOCA’s focus has tended to be internationalist: this exhibition is the great chance for the institution to finally fit into the local art scene. About two dozen artists – or collectives – are included in the first iteration of what MOCA promises to be a triennial event. The exhibition should represent a welcome opportunity to measure much of contemporary Canadian art.

Growing Freedom: The instructions of Yoko Ono and The art of John and Yoko at the Vancouver Art Gallery, from October 9 to May 1, 2022

Growing Freedom, by Yoko Ono.Blaine Campbell / Courtesy of Contemporary Calgary

This double header comes to Vancouver from the Phi Foundation of Montreal and examines the theme of collaboration in Yoko Ono’s art. The first part presents Ono’s educational projects in which she invites the public to complete the work through various actions – from driving a nail into a canvas in the gallery in 1966 to a work from 2013 that asked women to bear witness to the harm done to them. and a photo of their eyes. The second part examines Ono’s peace plans created with her husband John Lennon in the late 1960s.

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