Saturday, October 25, 2008

Montreal's Museums: the CCA (Centre for Canadian Architecture)

In terms of your straight up art museum with works by the Old Masters, Impressionists, and ancient cultures, Canada clocks in pretty weak for the Western world. Canada’s history museums that focus on Canada, as well as Canada-focused art, are more the local specialization. As a former New Yorker and Bostonian, a short time resident of London(England) and Athens (Greece), having just one or two major exhibits pass by the Musee des Beaux Arts is kind of a cultural disappointment.

However, one museum in particular in Montreal deserves far more credit than it usually gets. The Centre for Canadian Architecture, otherwise known as the CCA. This cute little museum made out of a former mansion tucked away on a quiet street of downtown (unless one approaches from the Rene Levesque side) is a worthy visit for the serious architecture connoisseur and those who are interested in cutting edge art. There are no Picassos or famous art pieces to be found here that would appeal to the mass. Instead, the museum tends to demand a more thoughtful visit.

The museum usually features two major exhibits that stick around for around 6 months at a time. The exhibits are always thought provoking and interesting. However, they are only of moderate interest to someone who is looking for the typical museum browse. Instead, take the time to read the walls, which feature detailed explanations of most of the things on display. Leaf through the beautiful books and watch the videos. This is a museum where one must stop and spend time with the displays. Even better, take a tour led by one of the informative guides. With their guidance, the text heavy exhibits are suddenly a mind expanding experience.

Ultimately, the CCA is more academic than user friendly. The museum experience here is that the visitor feels educated by the visit, rather than simply “in the presence” of a masterpiece. The exhibits manage to present history, theory, and practice all at the same time, and this does require some effort of involvement. Of course, any expenditure of time or energy is worth it here. These are very intelligent exhibits. Every time I visit this museum, I come away with new eyes and feeling as though my worldview has expanded.

The CCA also features an archive and a library, as well as a collection of prints, drawings, and photographs. Items from the collection are usually integrated into the exhibits when appropriate. Frequent lectures, mainly on the free Thursday night, are a bonus. The bookstore is a delight for those who love art books.

Current Exhibitions: Toplight Room Transparencies from 1760-1960 until Feb 15, 2009 and Actions: What You Can Do With the City opening November 26th.

Address: 1920 Rue Baile (south of st. Catherine, north of Rene Levesque, off Rue Du Fort); Montreal, QC

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10 – 17; Thursday 10 – 21

Admission: Adults $10; Seniors $7; Children 6-12 $3; Children under 5 free

Free admission Thursday nights after 17:30h

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