Finding Richard Long and Carl Andre in Montreal
Stephen Borys, Executive Director & CEO, exhibition curator
At the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, director Paulette Gagnon offered to show me her favourite paintings from the collection including works by Alfred Pellan, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Charles Gagnon. I immediately sensed the 100 Masters checklist would be augmented greatly with this visit – and it proved true! From their extensive holdings of Borduas, Paulette’s choice of a 1956 canvas, entitled Épanouissement, was particularly inspiring, as was the Gagnon Splitscreenspace from 1974, and both were added to the final list. For the Pellan, we chose the artist’s imposing Quatre Femmes from 1944, which I thought would serve as a variation of Pablo Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon for the exhibition.
From the very start of the research of the MACM’s collection, I was drawn to the monumental works by Carl Andre and Richard Long; however, given their size and fragility, particularly with Long’s grey sandstones, I was guarded in my optimism for the loans. The approval of the three paintings, as well as the Andre and Long sculptures, along with Paulette’s strong endorsement of the selection, came as wonderful news and a high point in the national tour. A few weeks after the visit, I was shocked by the news of the severe flooding in the MACM’s vaults due to a record rainstorm in Montreal (over forty-five millimetres falling in a two-hour period). Fortunately, the quick action of the museum staff saved countless artworks from loss or harm, although several works sustained significant damage.
Richard Long, British, 1945– , Niagara Sandstone Circle, 1981. Grey stone, 488 cm diameter. A 85 34 S 362. © Richard Long / SODRAC (2012). Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay. Lent by: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal