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Us Masterpieces from the national collection

The exhibition Us seeks to spark individual and collective reflection and converging views of self-consciousness and awareness of others. It holds up a mirror to visitors that reflects our society. A selection of 69 works encompassing all the periods of the MNBAQ’s collections (ancient, modern, and contemporary art) offers visitors a unique philosophical voyage that hinges on three universal themes, identities, migrations, and territories. 


What is identity?


This novel grouping initiates reflection on self-image and the representation of others. Marie-Claude Pratte’s major work Portraits de société has inspired the exhibition. The stereotyped representations of different players in society produced by the artist in 50 little pictures broach caricature and the impact of prejudice.

The topic affords an opportunity to integrate a vast selection of works from the MNBAQ’s collection by Jori Smith, Mimi Parent, Sam Borenstein, Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy, John Heward, Raphaëlle de Groot, Françoise Sullivan, Manuel Mathieu, Manasee Maniapik, Regilee Piungituq, Eddy Firmin and Alfred Pellan, who also question identity-related themes.


What defines me? What would we be without other people?


Imposed, or voluntary migrations


The second part of the exhibition highlights forced, or involuntary massive population shifts. What causes a population to move? How do the artists broach this theme? The works of Jinyoung Kim, Pitseolak Ashoona, Davidialuk Alasua Amittu, Couturier Lafargue and Ari Bayuaji examine this sensitive topic.


What does being “at home” mean for a nomad? What are the conditions for a successful exile? How does the territory influence the culture that inhabits it?


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    (à gauche) Denis Forcier, J'aime parler aux étrangers, 1987, Photographie avec impression lenticulaire et acrylique sur panneau de fibre de bois 106 x 110,7 cm, Achat pour la collection Prêt d'oeuvres d'art du MNBAQ. © Denis Forcier

    (à droite) Marie-Claude Pratte, Portraits de société, 1999-2000 Acrylique sur bois, 140 x 260 cm (ensemble). Achat pour la collection Prêt d'oeuvres d'art du MNBAQ. © Marie-Claude Pratte Photo : MNBAQ, Louis Hébert

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    Eddy Firmin, [pictogramme] (Recherche), 2016, Céramique, métal, or, paille, fourrure, os Dimensions variées Achat. Collection du MNBAQ. © Eddy Firmin dit Ano Photo : MNBAQ, Louis Hébert

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    Jinyoung Kim, Last Night, 2019. Épreuve à développement chromogène, 1/5101,5 x 152 cm (œuvre); 103,5 x 154 cm (cadre). Achat pour la collection Prêt d'oeuvres d'art du Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. © Jinyoung Kim Photo : MNBAQ, Denis Legendre

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    Théophile Hamel, Adolphe, Auguste, Eugène et Alphonse Hamel, neveux de l'artiste, 1847. Huile sur toile, 68,3 x 84,2 cm. Collection du MNBAQ. Photo : MNBAQ, Denis Legendre

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    Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy, Le Docteur François-Olivier Boucher, entre 1826 et 1831. Huile sur toile, 65,8 x 55,7 cm. Collection du MNBAQ. Photo : CCQ, Jacques Beardsell

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    Raphaëlle de Groot, Dévoilements, série 2. Portraits de religieuses. Je les dessinais à l'aveugle pendant qu'elles, à l'aveugle, dessinaient une couronne de profession, 1999-2001. Encre sur papier, 82 x 273,5 cm (ensemble). © Raphaëlle de Groot Photo : MNBAQ, Idra Labrie

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    Couturier-Lafargue, Louis Couturier, Maisons et bâtiments, de la série Resolute Bay, 2004 à 2006. Épreuve numérique imprimée au jet d'encre sur contreplaqué de bouleau blanc, 1/144,5 x 60 cm. © Couturier-Lafargue Photo : MNBAQ, Denis Legendre

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    Ari Bayuaji, The Window, 2018. Hublot de bateau et encre sur papier, 38 cm (diamètre) x 13,5 cm (profondeur). © Ari Bayuaji Photo : MNBAQ, Denis Legendre

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    Manuel Mathieu, The Last Portrait, 2019. Techniques mixtes sur toile, silicone et résidus d’atelier, 82,5 x 85,5 cm. © Manuel Mathieu Photo : MNBAQ, Denis Legendre

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    John Heward, Sans titre nº 141 (autoportrait), 1990. Acrylique sur rayonne et attaches de métal, 247 x 128 cm. © Succession John Heward Photo : MNBAQ, Jean-Guy Kérouac


The territory that I inhabit and that inhabits me


The last part of the exhibition is devoted to a reflection on the notion of a territory and its inhabitants. How do human beings, animals, and flora share real or imaginary territories and what relationships exist between them? This remarkably rich topic is prized by Québec artists from the MNBAQ’s permanent collection, from Théophile Hamel in the 19th century to Caroline Elijassiapik, and including Jean Paul Riopelle.


Pellan and other major artists


A space devoted to Alfred Pellan pays tribute to the donors who have made an outstanding contribution to financing the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion. Some 30 works have been assembled, including a selection of 16 masks and 10 mobile sculptures that permanently revolved in the artist’s studio.

The Us project also includes works that the general public has greatly appreciated over the years, including Marc-Aurèle Fortin's L’Orme à Pont-Viaux (1928), Jean Paul Riopelle's Sans titre (1992), Jean Dallaire's Le Coq licorne (1952), Fernand Leduc's L’Alpiniste (1957), Alfred Pellan's Conciliabule (1945) and David Altmejd's The Quail (2008) (David Altmejd), to mention but a few.

The themes underlying the circuit allow the works to coexist and encourage a host of readings, especially philosophical ones. Through an approach that is sometimes playful, sometimes emotional or critical, the exhibition Us enables visitors to discover others and themselves, understand and unite, awaken and be filled with wonder, but above all, to be open to the world.



Marie-Claude Pratte, Portraits de société (détail), 1999-2000. Acrylic on wood, 140 X 260 cm (group). Collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Purchase for the Prêt d’œuvres d’art collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Photo: MNBAQ, Jean-Guy Kérouac. © Marie-Claude Pratte / SOCAN