Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum

What I find fun about sculptures in public places is looking at how they transform or interact with what’s around them, as well as enjoying the artworks themselves.

I’d loved to have been in on the discussions about where to place the thirty sculptures in Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum.

First of all, my absolute favourite match-up is ‘Walking Figures’ by Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland) in front of ManuVie. This is an empty plaza type area set back off the sidewalk, in front of walls of glass and the building’s conventional revolving glass doors.

The area normally feels rather blank and empty. Not any more! For me these massive figures are interceding on behalf of humans. Instead of the building imposing itself on the inconsequential ant-sized people scurrying by, the figures are striding in to assert the human dimension of the space.

Walking Figures, Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland), Montreal Balade pour la Pais/Outdoor Art Museum, 2017

A friend calls them ‘the headless ghouls’ but I just love them. They turn a lovely rich brown in the evening light. A wonderfully dynamic combination of sculpture and space.

Walking Figures, Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland), Montreal Balade pour la Pais/Outdoor Art Museum, 2017

Not sure I get the placement of the shiny stainless steel “Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama (Japan) beside the old oak door with its gorgeous wrought iron grille of the Louis Forget House (1884).

Yayoi Kusama (Japan), Montreal Balade pour la Paix/Outdoor Art Museum, 2017

But surprising juxtapositions do make one think – and take a second look. I pass this grand old mansion on Sherbrooke quite frequently but when was the last time I stopped to really take in the details – and even cross the road to get a different view? From across the road I find I actually like the way the shape of the pumpkin fits in with the mounds of shrubs in the garden.

The sculpture placements I find most interesting are in front of banks.

For example, ‘The Shipwreck’ – Michelangelo Pistoletto (Italy) outside the door of the Banque Nationale…

Shipwreck by Michelangelo Pistoletto, La Balade pour La Paix, Montreal 2017

…and the figure by Luben Boykov (Canada) outside the beautiful door to the old part of HSBC –

Luben Boykov (Canada), Montreal Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Art Installation, 2017

I can’t help but think of the need of thousands of migrants to reach a country where they can find a job and make a living, of the risks they take, of people struggling under mortgage and loan burdens, and of the one and ninety-nine percents…

Luban Boykov (Canada), Montreal Balade pour la Paix/Outdoor Art Museum, 2017

But before I get too carried away with the socio-political messages in the positioning of these sculptures, take a look at the lovely details on the Boykov sculpture –

Next door, outside the McGill Dental Clinic, are Jim Dine’s sculptures (USA). If you squint and imagine hard enough, it’s possible to see teeth. No? What about the sharp lines on the breasts? They remind me of my little dog’s teeth. But would I even be thinking about this if they were in front of, say, a hotel?

Jim Dine (USA) Montreal Balade pour la Paix/Outdoor Art Installation, 2017

Somehow it’s easier to see the sculptures for themselves once through the McGill entrance and in the university grounds. But they are just as affected by the space here, by the trees and grass.

It would be interesting to see ‘L’Assemblée’ by Wang Shugang (China) in a really busy spot. Would it bring the same intense focus to a place like that as it brings here?

Wang Shugang (China), Montreal Balade pour la Paix/Outdoor Art Installation 2017

When they were setting up the Balade, Joe Fafard’s ‘Mahikan’ (Canada) was left for a few days behind ‘L’Assemblé’ and I just loved it there. The wolf (which was looking away from the crouching men) appeared to be guarding their space and privacy.

I’ve tried looking at ‘Mahikan’ separate from its surroundings but it seems to me that it asks to be seen in relationship to something/one else. It has no formal connection with Niki de Saint Phalle’s ‘Dancing Nana’ (France),  and is not even looking at Nana. Even so, I have the feeling that ‘Mahikan’ is guarding her, making sure no one disturbs her as she dances her heart out.

Mahihkan by Joe Fafard and Dancing Nana by Niki de Saint Phalle. La Balade pour La Paix, Montreal 2017

It was only when I went back to see if a plaque was up for Wang Shugang’s sculpture that I saw ‘Funnel-Woman’ by Catherine Sylvain (Canada) tucked away in a corner. It had just stopped raining so the imprint of the figure (made by the artist’s body) was full of water.

“The funnel becomes the unusual intercessor between the willing participant and the world.” Notes for Funnel-Woman by Catherine Sylvain

The 30 sculptures and 40 large format photographs will remain along Sherbrooke between the Musée des Beaux Arts and McCord Museum until the end of October 2017. The Balade pour la Paix is part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary festivities, as well as celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of Expo67.

Charles Joseph’s totem which I wrote about in an earlier post, is also part of La Balade pour la Paix.


Enjoy doors from around the world at Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors and click on the blue frog.


19 thoughts on “Montreal’s Balade pour la Paix/Open Air Museum

  1. Nice collection of photos. Some interesting and weird sculptures. I find I don’t always have an appreciation for the abstract nature of some art. The red blob doesn’t look like much of anything to me. Makes me think I could be a sculptor. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a bit hard to see the red one in a photo because well, it’s very red, and also very shiny. But when you get close you can make out people sitting upright as their ship goes down. Why don’t you try your hand at sculpting???

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good to know the red sculpture had more substance than a shiny blob. Wonder why the ship was going down and the passengers were sitting upright and not jumping off the ship? Any backstory there?
        If I tried my hand at sculpting, I’d be making shiny blobs for sure. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good question. I wondered the same thing. It’s odd to look at as you’d expect at the very least people would be leaning back, or even trying to jump out. Is the sculptor saying desperate people are fatalistic? I don’t know.


  2. Oh, they sure decorated the doors for you! I love it how the wolf is looking out for Niki’s “Nana”. We have Niki’s “Tarot Garden” over here and I visit often, so I consider her a friend and was happy to spot the Nana in your post in my reader. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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