Two Art Exhibits in Montreal That Will Blow Your Mind

by Gray Cargill on August 14, 2013

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Montreal is one of my favorite destinations for a quick weekend getaway: Just two hours north by car, it has everything I want in a major city: A variety of activities, fantastic dining options, loads of great hotels, a beautiful historic district (the Vieux Port, or Old Montreal) on the St. Lawrence River, and a fantastic metro system. I just spent such a getaway weekend in Montreal, and it was as satisfying as ever.

I’ll write more about the whole trip later on. But this week, I wanted to share with you my excitement about two terrific art exhibits happening right now. They’re both limited time engagements, so if you want to see them, you’ll have to plan a trip to Montreal in the next couple of months. If you can, you should seriously think about it. Both exceeded my expectations in every way. I cannot rave about them enough.


A man planting a tree, sheep, sheepdog and horses

In the Garden of Giants: The International Mosaiculture at the Botanical Garden

(June 22-September 29, 2013)

What is the International Mosaiculture? It is a competition of horticultural art. “All works presented must represent something of the participant’s culture while responding to a predefined theme and complying with the principles of sustainable development.” The predefined theme this year is “Land of Hope,” a focus on the planet’s biodiversity.

Ram-Horned Serpent

Cernunnos, the Celtic god, with the (very long!) ram-horned serpent.

From perusing the Mosaiculture website, I pictured it in my mind as being a lot like Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival that Disney World puts on every spring. Disney is famous for its attention to detail, and they create some outstanding topiary art. Well, the International Mosaiculture is like Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival. . .on steroids. And don’t call it “topiary art”. The artists use a variety of plants, flowers and organic materials, not just pruned shrubs.

Hope and Odyssey

“Hope and Odyssey” – This sculpture is made entirely of pieces of driftwood that haven’t been cut or altered in any way.

I was so impressed by the degree of artistry and attention to detail of these organic sculptures. There are entire tableaus created of plantings, and sculptures the size of a two-story house! Sculptures of animals have been placed in their natural settings, like ponds, marshes and trees.

Girl and Crane

This work of art tells of a girl who died saving a red-crowned crane. And yes, that’s a person in there doing a little work on it.

Some sculptures have tear-jerker stories attached to them, like the girl who died while saving an injured red-crowned crane or the loyal dog that kept going to the train station to wait for his master for years after his master had died. Many cultures, nations, and mythologies are represented in the art, from Canada to Japan to China to Great Britain.

It really has to be seen to be appreciated, though. It’s not until you’re standing there, looking up into a two-story high sculpture and see a tiny person climbing around to water it that you really get a sense of the massive scale of this. Wow. The thought that kept going round in my head was “How long must it have taken to create this???”

Mother Earth

Mother Earth

Tips to maximize your visit:

1) Go early, as soon as the Garden opens, especially on the weekend. Even if you have the Montreal Museum Pass, you’ll still need to stand in line to get a paper ticket.
2) Wear comfortable shoes; the 2.2-kilometer trail wraps around the whole Botanical Garden.
3) If you want to see some of the regular gardens during your time here, step off the Mosaiculture path to do it when you get to those gardens. It would be very difficult to backtrack later on.

Mille Fiori

Mille Fiori

Mind Officially Blown: Chihuly at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art

(June 8-October 20, 2013)

The second exhibit I was excited about was the Chihuly display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. Dale Chihuly is one of the preeminent glass sculptors of our time. I’ve been a huge fan of his since I first saw his glass ceiling sculpture at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. If you’ve seen and appreciated it, let me tell you, that’s just a small taste of Chihuly’s talents.

Persian Ceiling

Persian Ceiling

I had no idea you could do so much with blown glass other than make vases and plates and bowls. Chihuly creates gardens and flourescent forests of glass. The colors are vibrant, almost painfully beautiful. The combination of these carefully crafted glass structures and selective lighting creates stunning works of art that invite you to stare at them at length. They’re absolutely mesmerizing.

Turquoise Reeds

Turquoise Reeds

The exhibit has been put together meticulously for maximum visual effect. There is one room with a ceiling of colorful glass layered on top of plates of glass and backlit (“Persian Ceiling”); on the floor are mats where visitors can lie down and gaze up at the ceiling the way it was meant to be viewed. There is a rowboat filled with colorful twisty tubes on a “lake” of black glass that creates a beautiful reflection; walls of his famous curvy flowers;  huge glass balls with swirls of color like giant marbles. Gardening and water—its movement, ripples, reflections–are both evoked in these works.

Mille Fiori

Mille Fiori

Simply put, I was completely blown away by this exhibit. My only disappointment was when I passed through the last room and realized it was over. I was tempted to turn around and go back through all over again.

Note: Photography is allowed in this exhibit, but only with the flash turned off.

If you have the time and the ability to visit Montreal for these two exhibits before they’re gone, I strongly encourage you to do so. Your eyes, your soul, and your mind will thank you. The Mosaiculture Exhibit runs through September 29, 2013, while the Chihuly Exhibit runs through October 20, 2013.

Note: My stay in Montreal was comped by Tourism Montreal, but my opinions are 100% my own, as always.

Beth O'Donnell August 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

Chihuly makes my heart race and Montreal is on my list of places to go soon. Guess I’m going soon 😉

Gray Cargill August 16, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Sounds like a good plan, Beth!

Jeff @ GoTravelzing August 15, 2013 at 9:07 pm

The Chihuly exhibit is amazing. We had one here at the Desert Botanical Gardens a few years ago. The sculptures spread out among the cactus and desert plants were really awesome. It is returning this fall. I can’t wait to see what they have added to it.

Gray Cargill August 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

You’re not the first to mention that exhibit to me, Jeff, so it must have been memorable! Having the sculptures set among the cactus must have been amazing.

Lauren Meshkin August 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

These both look INCREDIBLE. That Mother Earth photo!! Wow. Seriously considering a weekend trip to Montreal now in late September. I’ve always wanted to go and now I have two very good reasons.

Great post!

Gray Cargill August 15, 2013 at 4:58 am

They were incredible, Lauren! I hope you get a chance to see them.

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