MONTRéAL — Mural, mural on the walls, why does Montréal have the best of all? With apologies for taking liberties with the Snow White nursery rhyme, it is worth asking why Montréal’s murals, a.k.a. urban art, are among the best in the world.
“That’s because we take our murals very seriously,” Thom Seivewright, a Montrėal city guide who specializes in mural tours, tells me. “We even have two festivals dedicated to murals.”
The festivals Seivewright is referring to are the aptly-named MURAL Festival, held in June, and MU, held in the fall. The latter is not really a festival but rather a community project that “brings new life to city walls.”
The most impressive of all Montréal’s murals is the one recently unveiled to commemorate the life and times of Montrėal born and bred singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen on the first anniversary of his death in 2016. The 20-storey mural covers 1,000 square metres and rises on a building off Crescent St. in the city’s chic Golden Square Mile district. It depicts the king of cool in his signature fedora and wearing a rare smile.
“The mural is based on a picture taken by Leonard’s daughter, Lorca,” Seivewright tells me. “Apparently Leonard really liked that photograph.”
It’s not the only mural of Cohen, though. The other is located on Napoleon St. in Montrėal’s legendary Plateau district off Rue St. Laurent where the music icon grew up. The Plateau mural was unveiled during a the MURAL Festival and stands nine storeys high.
Above: Montréal even holds two mural festivals that produce paintings like this.
Seivewright is anxious to show me more murals that honour other Montréal legends, like the one of Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson, which jumps off a wall in the city’s Little Burgundy district — at the corner of Rues Des Seigneurs and Saint-Jacques.
“Oscar grew up in this area but what’s really cool is the next mural,” says Seivewright as we drive a few doors down towards the face of a beautiful woman.
“That’s Daisy Sweeney, who was Oscar’s teacher,” says the guide. “Without her, Peterson may never have achieved his greatness."
Montréal’s murals come in all shapes and sizes — some are sombre and dark, others are whimsical and cartoonist. The detail on most are remarkable — many look like they should be hanging in the city’s renowned Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.
Ironically, some of the more detailed murals have fallen victim to graffiti artists, who leave their signatures in the darkness of night.
“That’s a bit of a controversy,” says Seivewright, “because some people feel the original mural should be repaired but others feel the graffiti addition is just fine.”
Montréal’s murals are another example of why this is such a state-of-the-art city. •
• For more on Montréal’s mural culture, go to http://www.mtl.org
About the Author
Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. As the former Travel Editor of the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper, and now Editor-in-Chief and Senior Writer for TraveLife magazine (Canada) and travelife.ca, Marc has been to over 100 countries in the world. Japan is one of his favorite destinations and he's been there on numerous occasions.