Quebec fine arts museum’s new pavilion showcases hidden art

QUEBEC CITY – A major expansion more than doubles the space of the fine arts museum of Quebec. Never before seen artwork will now be on display to the public for the first time in a new wing.

“It’s giving a story that has not been told before,” said Line Ouellet, director and chief curator of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ).

She explained that she thinks the art in the new galleries will inspire the international art world: “All of a sudden they see them in this space and they say, ‘Wow, it’s been done in Quebec. Those are Quebec designs,’ or ‘Those are Quebec artists.’”

None of the pieces are new. It’s just that for decades, the MNBAQ hasn’t had space to showcase them. So they’ve sat in storage.

“Our collection is mainly Quebec art. It’s 38,000 pieces of art and we had a very large part that was never exhibited,” Ouellet said.

Now the new Pierre Lassonde pavilion, an over 160,000 square foot space, will allow the public to see the museum’s decorative and design collection, contemporary art collection, as well as a gallery of Inuit art, among other collections.

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    The new building is thanks to donations and government investment, but especially to a Canadian businessman and philanthropist.

    “My mother was a collector and she always had art coming through the house. So the very first thing I ever bought with my very first paycheck was a painting,” said Pierre Lassonde.

    Lassonde has lived in the United States since 1971, but has always had a soft spot for Quebec art. He’s given more than $10 million to the MNBAQ. He also suggested an international competition to find a renowned architect for the new wing.

    Shohei Shigematsu is from a New York firm; he was challenged to design a modern building that connected the original museum (a renovated prison) and a current church.

    “We delibrately made a court yard between the old and new,” said Shigematsu.

    “I call it the equivalent of a Fabergé egg. The Russian tsar would put jewels in it, but the box itself was a jewel. And this is what we have here,” said Lassonde of Shigematsu’s architectural design.

    The new pavilion will open officially on St. Jean-Baptiste day.

    “It’s a day trip to come to the museum. A day trip in your own history, in your own culture,” said Ouellet.

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