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Largest exhibition ever devoted to Marc Chagall in Canada opens in Montreal
The exhibition explores, for the first time, the omnipresence of music in the artist’s life and work, through close to 340 works and a major documentary corpus.

MONTREAL.- The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Chagall: Colour and Music, the largest exhibition ever devoted to Marc Chagall (1887-1985) in Canada. The exhibition explores, for the first time, the omnipresence of music in the artist’s life and work, through close to 340 works and a major documentary corpus. This unusual approach demonstrates the degree to which Chagall’s aesthetic and artistic world is imbued with music, from his paintings, works on paper, costumes, sculptures, ceramics, stained glass and tapestries, to his creations for the stage and his grand decorative and architectural projects.

This major exhibition reveals some fabulous costumes rarely seen by the public and some decors produced by the artist for the ballets Aleko (1942), The Firebird (1945) and Daphnis and Chloé (1958-59), and the opera The Magic Flute (1967), thanks to some exceptional loans granted by the Opéra de Paris, the New York City Ballet and the New York Metropolitan Opera. They are staged in such a way as to recreate the particular atmosphere of each show by means of subtle special effects.

With its fully spatialized musical accompaniment, the exhibition is accompanied by various multimedia devices: music, films, photo slides and especially an extraordinary projection of the famous ceiling of the Opéra de Paris, in the Palais Garnier. In partnership with the Opéra national de Paris, Google lab and Google Art Project in Paris digitized in ultra-high definition this 220 m2 painting completed in 1964 by Chagall. A huge technological challenge, some stunning zoom effects were used on these images to reveal the splendour of the material and the meticulous detail, which up to now have been invisible to the naked eye, of this monumental decor, Chagall’s tribute to 14 composers.

The exhibition also explains how the ceiling of the Opéra de Paris, and the decorative and architectural programme of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York (1966) embody the concept of total art dear to the artist and testify to his research into the universality of music and how it is revealed in architecture.

Following the joint presentation of the exhibition at the Cité de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris, and La Piscine – Musée d’art et d’industrie André Diligent de Roubaix in 2015-2016, the Montreal edition has been enhanced by over 100 works, including some rarely loaned masterpieces: Golgotha (1912), Self-portrait with Seven Fingers (1912-1913), the Birth (19111912) and the Green Violinist (1923-1924), brought together by some major institutions, such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art (Washington), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musée national d’art moderne (Paris), the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme (Paris), the Musée national Marc Chagall (Nice), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Fondation Beyeler (Riehen/Bâle) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA explains: “An artist without borders, Marc Chagall orchestrated a work consisting of many forms of expression: easel painting, mural decor, book illustrations, lithographic collections, stage costumes, sculptures, ceramics, stained glass windows, mosaics… In this score, music provides all the harmony: songs from his childhood, religious prayers, fairs, readings, ballet and opera performances, and of course a broad repertoire from classical (Bach and Mozart) and contemporary (Schoenberg and Messiaen) composers. Here, astonishingly, for the first time, the soundtrack of his life forms the subject of an exhaustive exhibition.”

“This exhibition is an original exploration of all the sounds and all the colours of which the œuvre of Marc Chagall is made. Multidisciplinary and interactive, with the exceptional works, and the inclusion of music, photographs, and films along the way, it is an invitation to a sensory immersion in the work of one of the most important and remarkable artists of the 20th century,” added Ambre Gauthier, Guest Curator.

“As Chagall constantly repeated, the three most essential elements in life for him were the Bible, love and Mozart. His entire work is imbued with music. I had the great honour of knowing Marc Chagall during the last years of his life, when I realized how deep his knowledge of music was, ranging from klezmer to Stockhausen, and also of his interest in complete art, which is evident in his theatrical and monumental productions. It is a special pleasure to have had the privilege of lending my support to this event, which reveals the new light cast by this genius,” added
Mikhaïl Rudy, Musical Director of the Exhibition.

“With this explosion of luminous colours and shapes, through which the visitor is invited to succumb to the enchantment, and to discover and explore the pictorial and sculptural world of Marc Chagall, among roots, rhythms and harmonies in balance, the artist consumed by his thirst for constant renewal reveals himself to be a very involved, attuned and visionary witness to the times of light and darkness that still concern us today,” stated Meret Meyer, Vice-president of the Comité Marc Chagall, and Bella Meyer, granddaughters of the artist.

The MMFA’s interest in the links uniting music and the visual arts in Chagall is consistent with the themes of its earlier exhibitions Warhol Live: Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work (2008) and Splendore a Venezia: Art and Music from the Renaissance to Baroque in Venice (2014).

This foray into the enchanting world of this painter of music also marks the opening of the Pavilion for Peace, which is dedicated to international art and education. This fifth pavilion of the MMFA, inaugurated just in time for the 375th anniversary of Montreal, bears the name of the Jewish Holocaust-survivor couple and great donors, collectors and music-lovers, Michal and Renata Hornstein. This exhibition is dedicated to them.

The exhibition will feature a klezmer violin decorated with the Star of David, which would have belonged to a typical Belarusian family like Chagall’s. It is on loan from Amnon Weinstein, the celebrated luthier who has spent the last twenty years locating and restoring violins that were played by Jews in the concentration camps and ghettos during the Nazi era. Weinstein, many of whose relatives perished during the Holocaust, named these instruments “Violins of Hope.”

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