The new exhibition was conceived as part of the citys 375th anniversary celebrations but has morphed into a thorough investigation of all things Cohen
Almost exactly a year after his death, Leonard Cohen will have a homecoming of sorts in Montreal. On 9 November, the Muse dart contemporain de Montral (AKA the Mac) will open the doors to Leonard Cohen : une brche en toute chose/A Crack in Everything, a tribute to the artist, poet and musician, filled with multi-disciplinary works inspired by Cohens songs of life.
The show is the first major exhibition devoted to Cohens legacy, and while it seems like the type of show thrown together in the wake of an icons death, this exhibition was planned far in advance, securing Cohens blessing before he died on 7 November last year.
According to the Macs curator, John Zeppetelli, the idea came about during a brainstorming session with the shows co-curator Victor Schiffman. The pair were trying to figure out how to celebrate Montreals 375th anniversary, and draw in visitors who might not normally sign up for an afternoon of contemporary art.
We wanted to do something that the museum wouldnt normally do. Leonard Cohen came up and we just looked at each other knew that this was it, explains Zeppetelli. Every time we mentioned the name Leonard Cohen, everyone lit up. We knew it was a winning proposal.
The curators felt even more strongly about their choice when Cohen released his 2016 album You Want It Darker his 18th studio album at the age of 82. We were excited to be celebrating a living legend, an active musician, poet and cultural figure who had been active for five decades, says Zeppetelli. We were so looking forward to taking him around the exhibition hall and showing him how relevant and powerful he has been to so many people.
Zeppetelli never thought he would be able to get Cohen to agree to the show, though. Leonard is notoriously private, explains Zeppetelli, who was surprised when Cohen responded, through his lawyer, by saying he was touched by the exhibition and gave his approval. I think its because this wasnt a hagiography, it wasnt a collection of his fedoras. This show was contemporary art commissions where we invited artists to think about Leonard Cohens cultural output, to be displayed in Montreal, the city he came back to to be buried.
While Zeppetelli admits that the show has become a little more commemorative in the wake of Cohens death, most of the artists were invited to participate before Cohen died, and the work reflects that. Artists from around the globe France, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong, the US and Canada contributed pieces that contemplate Cohens work and reinterpret it, sometimes through the lens.
The artists meditations on Cohens work have resulted in pieces like South African artist Candice Breitzs recreation of Cohens album Im Your Man, all sung by Montreal men over the age of 65, or Canadian artist Janet Cardiffs piece that invites visitors to touch the art and summon up one of Cohens poems from The Book of Longing recited by him.
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