Montreal Guide: Where to Go 


12 Oct

Montreal is a great city with a great vibe. It is an eclectic mix of all things English and French, with attractions to satisfy even the pickiest traveler.

I recently took a weekend trip to Montreal, and discovered the beauty it had to offer. Here are my recommendations for must-sees:

royal 2

For Scenery: Mont Royal 



There aren’t too many cities that can boast about having a giant mountain in the middle of downtown. But Mont Royal is precisely that: a beautiful mountainous nature preserve that gives you the perfect view of Montreal’s skyline.

From the summit near the Chalet de Mont Royal, foliage perfectly frames downtown Montreal and gives you a great view of the Parc Olympique in the distance. Dozens of trails snake up, down, and around the mountain, giving you as much time and adventure as you can handle. You can head straight up to the Chalet viewpoint, or meander around and enjoy an afternoon retreat.

The mountain is especially beautiful in autumn when the leaves turn bright red, yellow, and orange. It’s a stunning walk.

10612792_10154626059730147_7001178012557715993_n

For Art: Musée des Beaux Arts

Montreal’s Musée des Beaux Arts is a multi-building complex filled with classic and modern art. It’s a perfect one-stop place to get a taste of Montreal’s art scene, while also viewing one of Canada’s most prominent museums. The collections are pretty eclectic and range across all mediums, eras, and movements. The museum also tends to have a great selection of special exhibits, displaying some of the world’s most precious pieces of art (their past exhibit, which just ended, featured the world’s best collection of Faberge eggs outside St. Petersburg).

Need another incentive to check this place out? Admission to the permanent collections is free for anyone under 30. If only MOMA would adopt that policy…

Image via Pointe a Calliere museum

Image via Pointe a Calliere museum

For History: Pointe a Calliere

Pointe a Calliere is a museum devoted to the history and archeology of Montreal, from its foundations by local Inuit tribes, to its settlement by French and British explorers, to the present day. The museum boasts one of the largest archeology collections in Canada, and comprises numerous sites from the city’s foundations.

The museum’s collections stretch across six buildings or sites: the modern Eperon building, the archeology crypt, Montreal’s first custom house (Ancienne-Douane), Youville Pumping Station (Montreal’s first electrically-powered wastewater pumping station), the archeology field school, and the mariner’s house. Some of these sites have documented human activity stretching over 1,000 years.

In addition to its permanent collections, the museum also hosts special exhibits studying culture and history worldwide.

For Shopping: Mile End

Mile End is fast becoming Montreal’s hippest neighborhood. With a growing collection of art galleries, cafes, brunch spots and shopping venues, this area should be high on your exploration list.

Montreal is also famous for its fashion scene, particularly vintage fashion. St. Laurent Boulevard, the heartbeat of Mile End, is littered with great vintage and recycled-goods stores. It’s hard to stay on a schedule or a budget once you start browsing, and the list of things you didn’t know you needed can grow quite high.

For the price, quality, and quantity however, there is nothing that compares. So take a little shopping spree and get yourself some fashionable souvenirs.

10645304_10154626061035147_6659045920471248528_n

For Tradition: Old Montreal

Old Montreal is the quintessential tourist experience. It is the slice of land where Montreal was first founded by French explorers in 1642. Today the area is mostly populated by cobblestone streets and little storefronts selling locally made items and souvenirs. There are also numerous restaurants and pastry shops.

The center of Old Montreal is Place Jacques-Cartier, which houses the city’s oldest public monument, Nelson’s Column. In the warmer months the square is covered with a bounty of blooming plants, and in the winter it is covered in rows of lighted Christmas trees. Slating downward from City Hall, the square leads straight to Montreal’s Old Port, another great scene to discover in the warmer months.

10479700_10154626058570147_6685646421607870800_n

For Fun: Graffiti Hunting

One more thing Montreal is known for: Graffiti. The city is like an urban canvas or a graffiti scavenger hunt. Talented and colorful murals adorn every other building, keeping the city young and lively and beautiful.

There’s a perfect app to help you discover graffiti around the city too. It’s called GraffMap, and it can pinpoint your location to tell you where the best graffiti is near you. Similar to Instagram, you can browse through photos and click on your favorites to see where to find them. If you want to see some great art, but don’t have the time to wander, this is a great tool to make your graffiti-hunting easy.

Modern Art & the NYPD

13 Aug

A must-do this weekend for all my NYC gallery hunters:

This pop-up exhibit running two weekends only will be sure to wow your senses. The 21st Precinct Art Exhibit is a four-floor installation of modern art in an historic, abandoned NYPD precinct.

Featuring four floors of murals, wheatpastes, graffiti, and other installations from world-renowned artists, the show has a huge variety of work. This is an opportunity to see some amazing modern art while exploring the beautiful architecture of a late 19th century police station.

While no official photos have been released of the show, the photo above is an unofficial sneak-peek of one of the fascinating pieces you will see there.

The building was built in 1863 and functioned as a police precinct until 1914. This is your last chance to see the interior before it is fully gutted during the final week of August.

The show is presented by Outlaw Arts, Savior Elmundo, and Pesu. These groups are dedicated to reinventing abandoned and unused spaces via artistic expression. They are inspired by the “Outlaw Parties” traditions from the 80s and 90s.

There will be an opening reception this Saturday from 6-9 p.m., and the show will be on display Sunday Aug. 17, Saturday Aug. 23 and Sunday Aug. 24 from 1-6 p.m.

What: 21st Precinct Art Exhibit
Where: 327 E. 22nd St.
When: Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16-17;
Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23-24

A list of participating artists: Adam Dare, Al Diaz, Amanda Marie, ASVP, Bad Pedestrian, Ben Angotti , Bill Claps, Bunny M., Cash4, Chris RWK, Chris Soria, Coby Kennedy, Curtis Kulig, D. Gaja, Danielle Mastrion, Damon Johnson, Dasic, Dizmology, Duel, ELLE, Erasmo, Esteban del Valle, Faust, Ghost, GIZ, Hellbent, Hue, Icy & Sot, Iena Cruz, Jesper Haynes, Justin Carty, Ket, Lexi Bella, Li Hill, Lorenzo Masnah, Matt Siren, Mr. Toll, N. Carlos Jay, Nepo, Nick Tengri, Pesu, Phil, Pixote, RAE, Rambo, Ricardo Cabret, SAE, Savior Elmundo, Sheryo & The Yok, Shiro, Tone Tank, URNY, Vexta, X-O.

Planning a Trip to Paris? The Do’s and Don’ts of a True French Experience

7 May

Everyone wants to be a Parisian in Paris: to sip an espresso at the local café, to stroll along the Seine at dusk, to have an afternoon picnic with a bottle of wine and a baguette.

Doing all those things is easy. Feeling like a true local, however, can be a little more daunting. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, and finding where the local crowds (not the tourists) hang is a difficult task.

For those of you looking for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, take these tips as an insider’s guide of where (and where not) to go:

Parc Monceau

1)    Don’t: Have a picnic on the Champ de Mars. Do: Have a picnic in Parc Monceau.

The Champ de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tour is a beautiful place to enjoy views of Paris’ most memorable monument. However the time-old tradition of tourists picnic-ing on the Champ lawns has become a little too popular.  The crowds of foreigners, in addition to the ever-present “street vendors,” can be overwhelming for someone looking to relax and enjoy the Paris atmosphere.

So, where to go for a picnic among fellow Parisians?

Answer: Parc Monceau. While it doesn’t boast views of the Eiffel Tour, this beautiful park is a popular local hangout for couples, groups of friends, or singles looking to settle in with a good book. Situated in the stylish 8th arrondisement, the park is a quick 15 min. walk from the Arc de Triomphe. Think rolling green hills, bright full-blooming trees, and beautiful landscape and architectural follies. You can enjoy the beauty and serenity of a picnic in Paris while feeling like a true local.

St. Denis exterior and interior

2)     Don’t: Go to Notre Dame. Do: Go to St. Denis

Notre Dame never fails to make the list of top Paris sites to visit. The 12th century Gothic cathedral has an incredible history, and is worth strolling by if you have a leisurely afternoon to spare.

What many guidebooks fail to emphasize, however, is that an even more impressive cathedral lies just a 20 minute metro ride north of Paris: Le Basilique de St. Denis. And if your time or energy allows you only one grand cathedral visit, then St. Denis should be your choice.

The St. Denis Cathedral was the first major building designed and built primarily in the Gothic style. Older than Notre Dame, St. Denis’ towering Gothic spires, eerie gargoyles and enthralling rosetta windows will more than impress you. But St. Denis has something even more extraordinary that Notre Dame does not: the mausoleum of the French kings. Beneath the cathedral lie the crypts of nearly every King in French history, beginning with Clovis I (465-511) and ending with Louis XVIII (1755-1824). Other French nobles are also buried there, including dukes, duchesses, and children of the crown.

Most Parisian visitors have no idea what they are missing.

Painting by Renoir

3)    Don’t: Visit Musee D’Orsay. Do: Visit Musee Marmottan

Many people think of Musee D’Orsay as the quintessential impressionist museum. Housed in a former beaux-arts train station (Gare D’Orsay), the museum is remarkable both for its architecture and its collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Their collection is considered the largest in the world.

But the lines and crowds at Musee D’Orsay are claustrophobic and fatiguing. Another top spot on the tourism lists, the Musee is packed nearly every day of the week.

To see a similarly impressive collection without the crowds, head to Musee Marmottan, a little museum in the 16th arrondisement housing the world’s largest collection of Monet masterpieces.

Tucked away on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, the Musee Marmottan is frequented primarily by Parisian locals. It houses all of Monet’s final works, as well as works by artists Morisot, Degas, Manet, Gauguin, Renoir, and others.

The lower level of the museum is the primary location of Monet paintings, and the display is stunning.  Take a seat on a bench in the rotunda room and breath it all in.

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

4)    Don’t: Explore Montmartre. Do: Explore the Marais.

The neighborhood of Montmartre is famous for many things: Sacre Coeur, the Artists’ Square, les Deux Moulins, etc. But what once made Montmartre a classic and authentic Parisian experience is now more or less a tourist trap. Climbing the hill to see the beautiful Sacre Coeur may be on the top of visitors’ lists, but the neighborhood is too conjested and the street vendors are too aggressive for someone wishing to have a more laid-back vacation.

Instead head to the Marais, a neighborhood once considered Paris’ most fashionable and wealthy. Located on the right bank of the Seine, it is a short walk from monuments like the Musee du Louvre and the Hotel de Ville. There will still be plenty of tourists milling about, but the Marais has such a history and connection to modern Paris that it is still a popular place for locals.

The Marais is a neighborhood you can explore for hours and never get bored. It continues to house an impressive collection of Hotels Particuliers- ancient mansions owned by wealthy 18th and 19th century Parisians complete with beautiful facades and French gardens. Today housing various other museums or national bureaus, the hotel gardens (and occasionally the interiors) are still open to the public. Traverse from one mansion to the other and feel like you are living among royalty.

 Must-see locations in the Marais:

L’hotel de Soubise (now the National Archives)
L’hotel de Rohan (also National Archives)
L’hotel Guenegaud (now Musee de Chasse et de la Nature)
L’hotel de Sully
Musee Carnvalet
Place des Vosges (oldest planned public square in Paris, 1605-1612)

Stock images

Vaux le Vicomte, stock images

5)    Don’t: Go to Versailles. Do: Go to Vaux le Vicomte

The palace of Versailles is a popular day trip outside Paris city center. Thousands of tourists flock daily to this former seat of French royal power. If luxury and opulence strike your fancy, Versailles is a wonderful place to get your fill of them.

Versailles is an easy travel. But for the more adventurous among us, there is a little-known secret hiding in plain sight: Vaux le Vicomte, a chateau rivaling Versailles in both beauty and prestige, located just a short trek (45 min) from Paris.

Vaux le Vicomte, created by architect Louis le Vau, artist Charles le Brun and landscape designer Andre le Notre in 1658-1661, was the original inspiration for Versailles. It was built for Nicolas Fouquet, then superintendent of finances for Louis XIV.

While the chateau and gardens are a little smaller in size, they are both magnificently kept to historical standards and boast less than half the crowds of the royal palace. You can enjoy the grounds (interior and exterior) at your leisure, without the hustle and stress of being hoarded around in a group.

Louis XIV was so jealous of Fouquet’s chateau that he imprisoned Fouquet shortly after it was built. That should give you an idea of just how much this place is worth seeing.

 

 

Gallery Beat March 7: Spring is Almost Here!

7 Mar

This is an incredibly busy weekend for art-lovers in New York City. Not only do we have a great collection of gallery shows going on, but we also have the famous Armory Show in town. If you can only choose one of these, make it The Armory Show, but the others are a must-see as well this Spring.

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982

City as Canvas

I have always been a huge fan of street art, and New York City is filled with some of the best. If you’re like me, and you’re still bemoaning the death of the Five Pointz art collective, then this may be the best place to get your new fix. The City as Canvas exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York features 150 graffiti art pieces by collector Martin Wong. This includes works by the likes of Keith Haring, Lee Quinones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000. Wong’s incredible collection is basically a time capsule to graffiti’s early days in NYC. It includes both original works and photographs of graffiti that has since been erased.

NYC graffiti art has always been transient- it disappears and then reappears in new shapes, colors, and images. Martin Wong did a great service however by keeping these pieces for permanent display, allowing us all to enjoy them as he once did.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10029
(212) 534-1672
Exhibit until Aug. 24

MoM Block Nr. 55, 1999

MoM Block Nr. 55, 1999

Michel Majerus

Michel Majerus is an artist whose work resembles graffiti, but who is considered to be more Pop Art and Minimalist. Nevertheless this new exhibit of his work at Matthew Marks Gallery is an impressive trove. A large selection of small-canvas works adorns the gallery walls with a certain eye-catching pop and color.

Majerus, a Berlin-based artist, died tragically in a plane crash in 2002. This will be the first exhibit of his work in the United States since his death.

The exhibit will include over 25 paintings and multimedia installations. Often compared to Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, Majerus’ work takes pop culture images/brands and reworks them into something completely new. Even when he uses reoccurring images, Majerus still manages to make each piece unique and intriguing.  The works in this exhibit are great to examine up close, but also to step back and take in as a whole.

Matthew Marks Gallery
522, 526, and 502 W. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-0200
Exhibit until April 19

Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn

The Armory Show

How could I discuss art in NYC without mentioning The Armory Show? This staple of the NYC spring art scene has been around for 100 years already. Running until Sunday only at Piers 92 and 94, this is something you really should not miss. Hundreds of galleries representing hundreds of artists will be showcasing their collections here. The art ranges in both historic and modern pieces, meaning there will be something to interest everyone.

There are multiple other art fairs occurring in the area as well- but the admittance fees are extra. While The Armory is the centerpiece of the weekend, the other fairs may be worth checking out as well if you have the time. The experience of immersing yourself in the “art world”- with buyers, collectors, and artists, for just one day is bound to give you a certain thrill you won’t find anywhere else.

The Armory Show
Piers 92 and 94 (12th Ave. and 55th St.)
New York, NY 10019
(212) 645-6440
Show until March 9

Gallery Beat February 21

21 Feb

Today’s gallery beat will take you on a little time traveling tour- to the future and the past. Hold on to your seat and get ready for some mind-bending exhibits.

 

Mural by Benedetta

Mural by Benedetta

Italian Futurism

Today is Italian Futurism’s opening day at The Guggenheim. The much-anticipated exhibit presents over 300 works created during the Futurist movement from 1909 to 1944. The first of its kind in the U.S., you can see pretty much every aspect of the movement here: from architecture to painting to sculpture to fashion.

The paintings are some of the most fantastic. Five in particular, by the artist Benedetta, are the prizes of the exhibit. They are on loan from the central post office in Palermo, Siciliy, for whom they were originally painted in the 1930s. Filled with incredibly bright colors, architectural strokes and strict lines, they definitely want to make you leap into the future.

Or at the very least, make you dream and forget about the winter cold out there.

Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10128
(212) 423-3587
Exhibit until Sept. 1

 

Replicant Marilyn

Replicant Marilyn

Tomoo Gokita

Tomoo Gokita offers another kind of fantastic, dream-like art. The artist uses portraits from pulp fiction, Hollywood tabloids, and film noir. He alters these portraits to make the subjects look deformed or unrecognizable, creating entirely new work in the process.

While unconventional, I love the result. The portraits are black and white, with strict edges and well-defined lines. Gokita overlays graphic patterns on many of the works to make them stand out and “pop.” They are like a not-so-secret surprise worked into every piece.

There’s a lot of subtlety to these works as well. Besides the strict black and white, they also have a million different shades of gray. It makes you wonder just how long it took Gokita to get those details right. In both the shades and the detail of the images themselves, there’s a lot to contemplate here.

Mary Boone Gallery
541 W. 24th St.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 752-2929
Exhibit until Mar. 1

 

Capucine, French model and actress, in Rome, 1951. Image via ICP

Capucine, French model and actress, in Rome, 1951. Image via ICP

Capa in Color

Rather than going to the future, this exhibit takes you back into the past. Capa in Color presents photographer Robert Capa’s color photographs for the first time. Capa was a photojournalist who used primarily black and white film, but also shot color film from the 1940s to the 1950s. Ranging from the Vietnam War to celebrity portraits, every photograph tells a compelling story about life in that era.

The variety of Capa’s work also gives you a great look at how versatile his career was. He had access to so many important people and events in his life that I can’t help but feel jealous. If nothing else you should see this exhibit to understand the importance of Capa’s work in the documentation of the 20th century.

International Center of Photography 
1133 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
(212) 857-0000
Exhibit until May 4

A Thousand Plateaus of Dance

16 Jan

Image via DaNaKa Dance

Image via DaNaKa Dance

Large metallic sheets shifted and shook and flickered in the light. They rose and twirled, then fell and flattened, seemingly on their own.

It wasn’t exactly a magic trick, but the people moving behind and beneath these sheets were invisible. Their movement was swift and undetected- yet I knew they were there. I was dying to lift the veils and find them.

These moving metallic sheets were the opening scene of Thousand Plateaus, a new dance performance by DaNaKa Dance. I saw DaNaKa for the first time on Sunday afternoon, during the Out of Israel festival at 92Y. I thought their work was catchy, invigorating, and cool- and DaNaKa is worth checking out. 

Thousand Plateaus is a unique performance in style and substance. The audience was assembled in an outward –facing circle, with the five performers dancing in a rotation. The performance goes through five phases, or plateaus, each illustrated by a different song, dance, and performer (depending on where you are sitting).

The development of each plateau was quite beautifully done. I loved the music selection- a mixture mostly of kitschy jazz and electronica. Each song has a slower, melodic beginning that gradually progresses to faster and more intense rhythms. The performers reflect the music in their moves- first dancing slowly and then again with swift, intense motions. While the dancers primarily act alone, sometimes they move from one “stage” to the next to interact with others. You are at once fascinated and gripped by the dancer in front of you, yet you want to look around at all the others as well.

I spoke with Danah Katz, the group’s director and choreographer, about this particular set-up.
“I was mostly curious to examine a sort of social phenomena, and its psychological effects. I was intrigued to situate the audience in such a way that will provoke a sense of curiosity towards what is unrevealed. Along the lines of “the grass is greener” I was interested to create a new world that pours light on our current generation’s behavior. That everything is reachable, touchable, and there’s so many to choose from in life.”

Hearing this explanation gave me much more insight into the audience’s seating. While I was impressed with the show, I feel I would have appreciated it even more had I known Katz’s inspiration beforehand.

Katz began DaNaKa Dance in 2009. She is an Israeli-born artist and recent MFA graduate from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She currently works as an artist-in-residence at Chez Bushwick Studio in Brooklyn. The Thousand Plateaus performance at 92Y was a premiere-only show. A small and incomplete version of Thousand Plateaus will show at CPR this Saturday, 7:30 p.m., but future DaNaKa Dance show dates are still being finalized.

I am not an avid dance reviewer, but I love art shows that keep me interested and curious. DaNaKa Dance definitely did that for me, and I’m excited to see other work from them.

Credits to the performers of Thousand Plateaus:
Chuck Wilt, Catherine Kirk, Chihiro Shimizu , Catherine Correa, and Danah Katz

Gallery Beat for the New Year

3 Jan

One of my multiple New Year’s resolutions this year is to see more artwork in New York City. I want to go to more gallery shows and museums, and in a city like this, there’s really no end to the opportunities. To start the New Year off right, here are some of the best shows happening right now:

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution

This is a not-to-miss show. The New York Historical Society is revisiting the famous 1913 Armory Show, aka the International Exhibition of Modern Art. This was one of the American public’s first introductions to European avant-garde art, heralding major cultural and social changes in the U.S.

There will be major works by Duchamp, Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh on display here, totaling about 100 works from the original show. It’s a pretty incredible collection, and the exhibit does a great job showing the immense impact these works had on the U.S.

The one setback to this wonderful opportunity is timed ticketing. In order to see the exhibit, visitors must buy advanced tickets for specific time slots up to 30 days in advance. So while you can’t drop in whenever, the exhibit is still worth finding the time for.

New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-7489
Exhibit until Feb. 23

Ai WeiWei, Han Jar Overpainted with Coca Cola Label

Ai WeiWei, Han Jar Overpainted with Coca Cola Label

Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China

Ink Art is an exploration of China’s historic use of ink in painting and calligraphy. Displaying modern ink art, from the 1980s to the present, the exhibit shows how contemporary Chinese artists have transformed ink work in a new era.

The exhibit also shows how traditional ink art continues to influence modern expressions. This is typical of Chinese culture- where old customs are reinterpreted for cultural renewal.

Ink Art features a diversity of mediums, including painting, calligraphy, photographs, woodblock prints, video and sculpture. In all there are about 70 works by 35 artists.  While I am not particularly familiar with Chinese art and culture, this exhibit is a great insight into one important slice of the pie.

It is worth noting there are multiple Ai WeiWei pieces on display here as well. That alone should be a motivation to go see this.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10028
(212) 535- 7710
Exhibit until April 6

Trend-ology

I’m a big fan of fashion exhibits- especially ones with historical costumes. This really exciting show at FIT examines fashion trends throughout history and where those trends originated. Displaying 100 objects from the museum’s permanent collection, the show looks at fashion trends from the past 250 years. Inspirations for the trends include urban street style, art, music, film, and socio-political movements.

The trends are really diverse spanning through the decades, and you can see many original designs from people like Dior and Chanel. The designs are incredibly beautiful and inspiring themselves, and you will walk away from this exhibit with a desire to learn much more about fashion history.

From the FIT website: “Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier aptly points out that ‘designers are the catalysts of their time; their role is to translate the changes, the mutations, the evolution of society.’ As culture continues to evolve, so, too, do trends in fashion.”

Fashion Institute of Technology
7th Ave. at 27th St.
New York, NY 10001
(212) 217- 4558
Exhibit until April 30

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 741 other followers