Historic donation worth over $120 million to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

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Historic donation worth over $120 million to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Jean Paul Riopelle, 15 Chevaux Citroën, 1952. Oil on canvas, 190 x 230 cm © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2021).

QUEBEC .- As Quebec prepares to celebrate in 2023 the centenary of Riopelle, one of its most illustrious artists, the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation confirmed an exceptional donation to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec with a total estimated value of more than $120 million, making it the most important donation ever announced in the history of Quebec philanthropy.

This incredible donation includes well over 60 prestigious artworks from Jean Paul Riopelle, evaluated to be worth over $100 million in total, as well as $20 million in cash to enable the creation of a new world-class pavilion as part of the MNBAQ’s complex. Espace Riopelle (working title) will be nestled in the heart of the majestic Plains of Abraham, in Quebec’s capital city.

Four of the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation’s founding families1, namely Michael J. Audain, O.C., O.B.C.; André Desmarais, O.C., O.Q., and France Chrétien Desmarais, C.M.; Pierre Lassonde, C.M., G.O.Q.; as well as Yseult Riopelle will mark history and significantly enrich the MNBAQ’s Quebec Art Collection.

The Government of Quebec will also contribute $20 million to this great legacy project, Quebec Premier François Legault announced during a press conference held at the MNBAQ in presence of representatives from the Riopelle Foundation and other distinguished guests. This sum will be added to the $20 million donation from the Riopelle Foundation founding families for the construction of a new space entirely dedicated to the exceptional artist Jean Paul Riopelle.

The MNBAQ Foundation will also contribute $2.5 million towards a renewed presentation setting for one of the Museum’s Riopelle Collection masterpieces, L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, as part of the new pavilion.

A unique site worthy of the artist

To highlight what has become this rich collection, the world’s largest public collection of Riopelle’s works, a new pavilion displaying a singular architectural signature that meets the world’s most stringent design, museological and conservation standards will be erected by the MNBAQ on the Plains of Abraham, at an estimated total cost of $42.5 million.

Offering a breathtaking view of the vast park that surrounds it and of the St. Lawrence River in the distance, Espace Riopelle (working title) will offer plenty of exhibition space, allowing for dozens of the world-renowned artist’s masterpieces to be showcased.

In compliance with the Government of Quebec’srequirements, an architectural competition will be held. Construction work will begin in 2023, the year of Riopelle's 100th birthday. The new pavilion’s inauguration is scheduled for 2025.

The peak of Riopelle’s Centenary Celebrations

The opening of the new pavilion will conclude the national and international celebrations of Riopelle’s centenary, which will begin in the fall of 2022. A host of exhibitions, various performances as well as educational and commemorative activities are planned throughout the year 2023 in Canada and around the globe, with touring productions planned until 2025.

Montreal, where the artist was born, will also play a central role in celebrating with great splendour his extraordinary contribution to the history of art. The city will be hosting numerous artistic events premieres and major projects from prestigious institutions and artists during these centenary celebrations. Several other regions of Quebec will also hold various cultural events honouring Riopelle’s impressive legacy. Quebec’s artistic talent will shine all over the world in the years leading up to the inauguration of the new space at the MNBAQ in 2025, which will be these extensive festivities’ final act.

The fulfillment of Riopelle’s dream

The love story between Jean Paul Riopelle and the MNBAQ is hardly new. Indeed, in the 1980s, the artist dreamed of installing in what is now the Charles-Baillairgé Pavilion (formerly the Quebec City prison) an exhibition space devoted to his work in dialogue with the work of other artists. His dream will soon become a reality.

The works offered to the MNBAQ by the collectors and founding members of the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, who are at the source of this major legacy project, will be added to a wide-ranging public collection of Riopelle’s works, already the largest public collection of its kind on the globe, encompassing nearly 450 artworks. The donation will only reinforce the MNBAQ Riopelle Collection’s status as the most representative of all of Riopelle's work, with pieces from all periods of his career and from all the mediums and techniques he has used through his many decades of artistic creation – paintings, works on paper, sculptures as well as mixed media.

In 1956, the MNBAQ was the first museum to acquire a work by Riopelle and its subsequent commitment to the artist has been steadfast. The MNBAQ has devoted numerous exhibitions and publications to the artist over the years. L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, one of the Quebec Collection’s masterpieces – donated to the MNBAQ by Riopelle himself in 1996, when John R. Porter was its General Director – is a scintillating presence in the Museum and vividly reveals Jean Paul Riopelle’s genius and spirit.

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