Our last stop in Montreal was the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts located near McGill University. My understanding of art is limited, but while walking through the museum, I learned how to talk about art. That said, I’ll give you my thoughts, but if you want true discussion about it, you’ll have to provide your own insightful art-based commentary.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
This won’t shock any of you, but I am not a fine arts connoisseur. My color pallete consists of about 10 colors like “red” and “reddish orange”. On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten Rodin mixed up with Rodan and Fields. My idea of a prolific painter is Bob Ross.
When visiting art museums, my forte is witty commentary and snide remarks. My trips to art museums eventually boil down to me biting my tongue so that my companions can enjoy the art. I preface it as such because I got into midseason form early when I saw what I jokingly called ‘Old Frank Sinatr’a on the side of a building.
I also made jokes about how they must have known I was coming and made a bust of my cold, frozen heart outside the main entrance.
Finally, there were electric cactuses (cacti?) surrounded by snow. Of all the art we saw all day, this made the least sense to me. Montreal isn’t known for its cactus population.
Learning to Talk about Art
I honestly debated whether I should create this post or if I should just move on to Quebec City because my art commentary is so poor. Most of my photos just have the tags “Inside Montreal Museum of Fine Arts” because I don’t know who created most of these. But while I can’t talk about art to save my life, I come to art museums for one reason: the lighting is amazing.
Most of the statues have spotlights on them, usually from one angle with the fill light coming from the ambient lights in the room. On paintings, this is a little less important, but on statues, it highlights details that wouldn’t be visible otherwise and gives them depth.
This led to a revelation: I like statues more than paintings.
Sarah started the conversation after I made a quip (the content of which eludes me) by simply asking what I liked about a certain piece. I responded with “Eh, I’m more into the statues.”
She responded simply with “Why?”
I like the depth and the detail they offer. I can discover new things by simply moving to the side of the sculpture. There’s a sense of exploration that I don’t get from paintings.
Look at me now, I’m talking about art!
This is not to say that suddenly I was a mature adult who took the rest of the trip seriously. No, I still made jokes, but I was trying harder to explain why I liked or didn’t like something between by cracks.
Some of my art critiques were a little strange. For example I empathized with the statue below because I too have walked into the coffee table and hurt my shins.
The Modern Art Section
Whether that emotion is sympathy, joy, or nervous giddy laughter, good art elicits emotion. The image below was one that I left off Facebook for obvious reasons but I most definitely reacted to it which means it may have been one of the most effective pieces of art in the whole museum.
Warning: penis ahead.
I also liked the more modern pieces because I was able to relate to them more. For example, the one below had a more modern context and while I’ve never been much of a painter, I understand the desire to preserve an ephemeral moment with your own twist on it. I run a travel photography blog. C’mon.
This was shaping up to be an insightful trip. I learned that I like modern art with clean lines and statues. What will I learn next?
Back to the Past
With that foree behind us, the rest of the museum focused on older art works. A lot of these were busts, not originals. Rodin’s Thinker above wasn’t real, and I don’t believe this marble statue was either.
On the 4th floor, tucked away in one corner was the area dedicated to Inuit artists. There were probably 40 pieces of art, most of them were small figurines made from stone or bone with little explanation. They were all behind glass panes which made me realize that I need a polarizing filter for my camera. But for reasons beyond my own selfish photography reasons, this was the most disappointing part of the museum.
The collection of art (or art busts, as the case may be) was decent, but not on par with the Chicago Art Institute or the Met in New York, despite it desperately wanting to be. The Inuit section could have been something uniquely Canadian, but instead it was a small, unadvertised section of the museum hidden away from the crowds. It’s almost as if they were ashamed of it.
This encapsulated my main issue with Montreal as a whole: it wanted to be a World Class City so badly that it forsaked it’s own complicated and deep culture. It wanted to be Paris, but instead of being a unique city with deep and ever-evolving history, it felt like an imitation of Paris. It felt like a cover song being sung by a really good band. Yes, it was nice, but be you. Embrace your uniqueness.
After we left the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and found dinner, we stumbled upon Lumino Therapie. During the long, dark months of the Montreal winter, the sun sets at 3:30 pm, and this art installation wanted to bring some light into the lives of Montrealers everywhere with fluorescent seesaws.
It was fun, but also a little too cold to spend too much time on the seesaws. Also, seesaws are harder to use as adults. Who knew.
After we see’d and saw’d, we went back to the AirBnB to say goodbye to Micheal and pack up our things.
In the morning, we’d be taking the train to Quebec City.