The Board of Trustees of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) recently made the difficult decision to abandon the construction project for a space dedicated to the work of the great Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002). Discussions on a collaboration between the Museum and the Riopelle Foundation continue, in a shared desire to jointly promote this important artist with a view to his 2023 centenary and for years to come.
In this time of economic uncertainty and in the face of the Museum's precarious financial situation due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum was forced to review its future projects and to make the responsible decision to abandon the plan to create a new space within the institution.
The financial health of the institution has been weakened by the loss of income due to forced closures. In addition, construction costs and times have increased significantly during the pandemic, as have projected operating costs. Given the current situation, the Museum cannot reasonably engage in a real estate project of this magnitude.
"We are extremely disappointed to have to abandon this real estate project, but it is the only responsible decision,” explained MMFA Director Stéphane Aquin. “Current economic conditions and the Museum's financial situation have changed since the inception of this idea. It would be unreasonable not to take them into account, thus jeopardizing the future of our institution."
Fortunately, discussions for a collaboration between the Riopelle Foundation and the MMFA are ongoing. The MMFA is offering its expertise (in conservation, restoration, archives and curating), as well as its national and international network of museum and academic partners, in order to highlight the work of this great artist.
It should be noted that the MMFA team possesses recognized expertise in Riopelle's work and that its collection includes 370 works by the artist, including key works from each of his major periods, such as Peinture (1947-1948), Autriche III (1954), L'étang – Hommage à Grey Owl (1970), Soleil de minuit (Quatuor en blanc) (1977) and Le canot à glace (1992). In addition, the Museum has devoted three major exhibitions to him in its own halls, in 1991, 1992 and in a few weeks from now with Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures. The MMFA also produced two exhibitions abroad in 2006, at the Hermitage Museum in Russia and at the Cantini Museum in Marseille.
The Museum is maintaining a close relationship with the Riopelle Foundation, as evidenced by the large-scale exhibition that will open as soon as the Museum reopens. This exhibition, conceived by the MMFA, brings together more than 110 works by the artist and takes a unique look at his career. After Montreal, the exhibition will travel to the Audain Art Museum in Whistler and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
— Montreal Museum of Fine Arts