New Contemporary Art
installation at the MMFA

States of Mind, States of Being: meditations on the human condition, at the Jean-Noël Desmarais pavilion

August 3, 2019

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is presenting a group of works by contemporary artists, entitled States of Mind, States of Being: Meditations on the Human Condition.

“Art tries to give a possible image of this world, an image that our sensibility has not yet been able to formulate…. Art suggests a way for us to see the world in which we live, and, by seeing it, to accept it” said the philosopher Umberto Eco. In an era that often places a premium on speed and sensationalism over slowness and substance, a moment when the world’s barometer for truth is at times insupportably low, it falls to art to show us not just how the world might be, but how it really is.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1,000 Platitudes, 2003

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1,000 platitudes, 2003, MBAM, anonymous donation. © Rafael Lozano-Hemmer / SOCAN (2019)

Displayed on Level S2 of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, the MMFA’s new accrochage features recent major acquisitions by Michel de Broin, Yoan Capote, Tony Cragg and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, in addition to works by Wanda Koop, Geneviève Cadieux, Marc Séguin and Kiki Smith, taken from the Museum’s collection. There are also two major loans from private Montreal collections: The Shepherd (2008) from a series of “giants” created by Montreal-born artist David Altmejd, and Ground Rules (Red Line, Green Line) (2015) a composition by the American artist Theaster Gates, who is recognized for his social engagement. The work is made using flooring recovered from Chicago gyms.

“Created by artists of different races, genders, ethnicities and nationalities, the works in this gallery encourage us to think differently about the world and our place within it. Channelling the power of the moon, the trees and the rain, certain of these works ask us to reimagine our thoughts, feelings and energies in terms of nature. Others invite us to question just what “liberty” means and to better understand the inequalities that persist to this day,” explained Mary-Dailey Desmarais, the exhibition’s curator and Curator of International Modern and Contemporary Art, MMFA.

New acquisitions in contemporary art

Michel de Broin, L’abîme de la Liberté, 2013. Photo Christine Guest

Michel de Broin, The Abyss of Liberty, 2013, bronze, 2/3, anonymous donation. Photo Christine Guest


Michel de Broin, The Abyss of Liberty, 2013
Drawing on the famous Auguste Bartholdi statue, Michel de Broin questions the notion of liberty by placing the iconic figure in a precarious position. He shows it upside down, balancing on its flame. He strips it of its imposing character, thereby creating proximity between the object and the viewer.

The power of the image lies in its evocative simplicity—a metaphor for the political climate in the United States following the events of September 11, 2001. In the wake of a feeling of insecurity and collective panic, The Abyss of Liberty alludes to attacks on freedom and democracy.

Yoan Capote, Abstinencia (Libertad), 2014
Yoan Capote is one of Cuba’s most innovative and influential artists. Abstinencia (Libertad) constitutes a poetic meditation on questions of freedom and migration at the heart of Capote’s broader practice.

Made after a trip to New York City, where the Statue of Liberty is located, this work consists of bronze casts of the hands of anonymous migrant workers sequenced to spell in sign language the word “Libertad” (Liberty, decodable with the help of the accompanying print of the sign-language alphabet). As a whole, the work creates an allusion to the difficulty common people face in making their voices heard on important social issues.

Yoan Capote (né en 1977), Abstinencia (Libertad)

Yoan Capote, Abstinencia (Libertad)[Abstinence (Liberty)], 2014, bronze, engraving with chisel and framed drypoint, 5/5. MBAM, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend legacies © Yoan Capote

Tony Cragg, Sharing, 2005
Thanks to the generosity of Jacques and Céline Lamarre, the Museum has acquired Sharing, a major work by Tony Cragg. The British artist came to international prominence with a body of work that explored the sculptural possibilities of everyday objects, which he composes into figurative forms, inviting viewers to reflect on their relationship with natural as well as synthetic materials.

This work is a combined portrait of three members of Cragg’s team bound in the shared skin of the continuous perforated bronze. Sharing might also be understood as part of Cragg’s enduring exploration of the porousness of human thought. Shown at the Louvre in 2011 for the exhibition Tony Cragg – Figure Out / Figure In, Sharing is the first work by this artist to enter the MMFA’s collection.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, 1,000 platitudes, 2003
Known for his interactive digital installations, Lozano-Hemmer combines technology with humanist reflections. Some of his works are considered Guerilla Art, in which he uses public spaces as projection surfaces without obtaining the required approvals. In 1,000 Platitudes, the Mexican-Canadian artist was interested in the discourse used to promote the globalization of cities and attract investors.

Resulting from a major photographic project that was presented at the Mexican Pavilion of the 2007 Venice Biennale, this artwork complements the installation Last Breath (Último Suspiro), also by Lozano-Hemmer, which the Museum acquired in 2013.

Feature image: Tony Cragg, Sharing, 2005, bronze, cast Schmäke, Düsseldorf, 98 x 109 x 108 cm. MMFA, gift of Jacques and Céline Lamarre. © Tony Cragg / SOCAN (2019). Photo: Christine Guest.

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Boasting more than 1.3 million visitors annually, the MMFA is one of Canada’s most visited museums and the eighth-most visited museum in North America. The Museum’s original temporary exhibitions combine various artistic disciplines – fine arts, music, film, fashion and design – and are exported around the world. Its rich encyclopedic collection, distributed among five pavilions, includes international art, world cultures, decorative arts and design, and Quebec and Canadian art. For more information, consult the Website

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