It’s no secret that Montrealers love public art. Whether it’s the city’s “joie de vivre” or the fact that we have more artists per capita in the entire country, we are fortunate enough to have such amazing art in the form of murals, sculptures, graffiti art, etc. This blog entry will focus on my favourite murals of the city. Obviously, I was born and raised in the east end of the city so I have an evident bias towards murals in areas that I frequent. Art is subjective and some of my choices not only value the actual mural itself but its strategic placement.
So here are a few of the many murals that I love in the city:
May An Old Song Open a New World (2015) – Gene Pendon and Bryan Beyung
This colourfully-vibrant mural, located at the entrance of Chinatown next to one of the Saint-Laurent boulevard arches, may just be my favourite mural of the city. Two Montrealers of Asian descent collaborate to pay homage to the rich Chinese heritage that helped shape the area and Montreal by symbolically depicting a female Chinese opera singer with two masks. I only wish that it was not located on the noisy and heavily-trafficked René-Lévesque boulevard. (Photo Credit : Jean-Philippe Riopel)
Tower of Songs, hommage à Leonard Cohen (2017) – El Mac & Gene Pendon
Granted that this is an obvious choice but notorious Crescent street will never be the same with the addition of this stunning portrait of the late singer songwriter hailing from Montreal. I really like the colour added right around Cohen’s heart where his left hand can be found. While I like being close to it by having a drink on one of the many terraces found on Crescent street, I love hiking up to the Kondiaronk lookout on Mont Royal to admire its beauty from afar.
Walla Volo (2019) – Ola Volo
Bigger is better in this case! It’s 15000 feet tall and one of the largest murals made by a woman in Canada! Quite the accomplishment for this former Montreal resident. I just love when murals suddenly appear like this one that can be found unexpectedly by the many factory shops of the Mile End. Skaters rejoice as you can enjoy your favourite sport while admiring this piece of public art during the winter.
Le 6e Sphère de la Culture (2008) – Dominique Desbiens
Slight bias here having seen this immense mural many times during my Little Italy tour. How can one not be amazed by this strikingly beautiful image of a woman depicting Mother Earth surrounded symbolically by its continents? It’s all about living together and embracing our differences for this one.
Jackie Robinson (2017) – Artist Fluke for ASHOP Crew
It’s only fitting that Jackie Robinson, the first black player to ever play in major league basebal, get his own mural. The lesser-known fact is that Robinson played for the Montreal Royals in 1946 before making the jump to the big leagues. You’ll find this mural at the corner of Saint-Laurent boulevard and Napoleon street where you can find yet another Leonard Cohen mural. You can always grab a smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz’s while admiring the mural. Here’s to you Mr. Robinson, Montreal loves you more than you will know, wo wo wo!
Habitations Jeanne-Mance Murals: Air du Temps (2012)- Phillip Adams
Here’s a novel concept: take low-income housing and paint murals representing the four seasons of Montreal and the four natural elements. My favourite of the eight is Air du Temps (pictured above) showing a gorgeous blue sky with buildings that were torn down to build the housing. As an added bonus is Montreal’s unofficial emblem: orange construction cones! Anybody who lives in Montreal knows that we are faced with never-ending construction with countless detours.
Untitled (2021) – Artist Ankhone for ASHOP Crew
I have been hanging out frequently in the Hochelaga Maisonneuve district in the past two years. This great mural showing pollinators can be found at the corner of Charlemagne street if you follow the quaint Luc-Larivée walking promenade that once had a railroad track passing there! Artist Ankhone created a harmonious mural blending itself well with its environment.
Check out this great video showing how the mural was made.
If you are a lover of murals and graffiti art, I strongly encourage you to visit Montreal during two eye-popping festivals. It starts with the Under Pressure Festival which boasts being the oldest urban culture festival in the city that has been running since 1996.
For lovers of murals, there is the incomparable Mural Festival which normally takes place in late June. Saint-Laurent boulevard becomes a pedestrian zone where you can see artists showcasing their talents right in front of you during the event.
Do you have any favourites? Please leave a comment in the section below. Have fun exploring the beautiful art out there!