Montreal has an abundance of art galleries and museums, stretching from one side of the city to the other. But, if you’re looking for one spot where you can surround yourself with more galleries than you could conceivably enjoy in a day, head down to Old Montreal and explore la rue Saint-Paul Ouest. From la rue McGill to boulevard Saint-Laurent, it’s packed with galleries large and small, including some that are artist-owned and others that represent a broad spectrum of creative minds.
The first gallery that caught my eye was Galerie Elca London. Unique on St. Paul Ouest, Elca London focuses on art created by the Inuit. Sculpture and flat art are available and come to the gallery based on their availability. Unlike most, it buys the art rather than take it on consignment, and there are no entangling relationships that limit what it can carry. So, if it measures up to the standard, it lands on the shelves. Of course, the gallery’s theme is evident from the inventory – there are a lot of polar bears and native masks. You’re more likely to pick up a piece or two for your collection, I suspect, than make this the cornerstone of your home décor.
Atelier Art Bressan is a single-artist gallery, featuring the works of Pauline Bressan, though a few pieces by her daughter (also a talented artist) have found their way onto the walls. Bressan’s style is decidedly abstract, and her influences vary. One piece, for example, comes from the effect a Senegalese poem had on her. The artist has shown her work around the world – in France, the United States and many other countries – which supports the quality of her creations in terms of investment potential (something to keep in mind as the art market starts to work its way up from the floor).
One of my favorite art spots in Montreal is still Les Passants du Sans Soucy Auberge. A boutique hotel, its lobby includes a small art gallery, mostly featuring the works of Jacques Clement. Clement’s work includes more landscapes than it did last year (my first visit to this lobby gallery), but he still has enough work on the human body (which has a Francis Bacon style to it) to keep me excited.
Further up Saint-Paul Ouest, you’ll find several art galleries that are similar to what you’d find in New York: multiple artists are featured, and the work is stylish, modern and exciting. Galerie Le Luxart tops the list for me in this group, with a labyrinthine gallery featuring a variety of contemporary techniques that will definitely force you to stop and look for a while. Galerie Saint Dizier and Galerie le Royer are of the same ilk.
Of course, if street art is more your style, you’ll find murals painted on buildings throughout the city. For the best concentration, head up to the trendy Plateau neighborhood, where you’ll find carefully crafted graffiti art in many of the alleys.
Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.