When taking the metro, most of us have a tendency to get lost in our own world as we power forward at full speed, trying desperately not to spill our coffee when rushing for the train. But morning commutes can be a lot more interesting than just wishing you were still in bed. Montreal’s STM system is absolutely PACKED with super-cool public art than you can admire for free.
It's easy to ignore something we see every day, but there’s actually some pretty sweet stuff to check out while you’re waiting for that next metro.
So I've put together a list of 6 unusual art installations and what they mean, so that next time you’re stuck between trains for ten minutes, you are better prepared to enjoy the easily accessible cultural pieces that make this city so great.
L'Homo urbanus, Côte-Vertu metro
Frequenters of the cheaper stores out on the orange line can find these cool, weird tiny human cut-outs pinned up on mirrored glass like insect specimens at the Côte-Vertu metro station. Fascinated with human behaviour, artist Éric Lamontagne chose to turn his tiny figures inwards to represent the city commuters and their hardcore avoidance of all human interaction - a familiar feeling to those of us who are experts at steering away from awkward eye contact.
And if you’re into Montreal’s lesser-known artistic treasures, there are a whole bunch of street murals near this station that are just as impressive as the ones scattered across downtown. It may not be common knowledge, but this neighbourhood actually has quite a few low-key cultural attractions up its sleeve - just check out the weekly outdoor concerts or the gorgeous Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park!
Le poète dans l'univers, Crémazie metro
‘Le poète dans l'univers’ is a must-see gigantic space-inspired installation mounted handily on the wall of Crémazie metro, and just a short walk away from local hotspot Parc Jarry. Designed by Georges Lauda and Paul Pannier, this eye-catching sprawl of iron incorporates zodiac signs, planetary alignments and poetry quotes, and has been drawing in passersby since its creation in 1968. It is meant to represent the poetic spirit of the universe, basically making the point that poetry and space are equally mysterious and fun to look at.
This area also happens to packed with underrated restaurants that are cheap as hell, so be sure to make time for some cosmic cultural appreciation while you’re off for a budget-friendly bite.
Les enfants dans la ville, Henri-Bourassa metro
This is by far one of the cutest art concepts across all of the STM’s many installations. Located in the eastern mezzanine of Henri-Bourassa metro station is a huge wall made of hundreds of clay blocks, each one designed by a real-life Montreal child! Back in the ‘80s, it was decided that some of the city’s kids deserved a more impressive platform for their art than their parents' refrigerators, and their creative efforts have been on display in this appropriately chill, family-friendly neighbourhood ever since!
Take a peek next time you feel like wandering around Parc Ahuntsic or find yourself making a shopping trip to Promenade Fleury.
The Tree of Life, Lionel-Groulx metro
Lionel-Groulx already has quite the rep as being one of Montreal’s nicer metro stations - it’s way less cramped, dirty and noisy than its sister stations downtown - and one reason to linger before heading to the Atwater Market is this amazing wooden sculpture that was carved by Joseph Rifesser as part of Expo 67.
Gifted to us Montrealers by the folks at the UN, The Tree of Life is meant to represent the coming-together of people all across the world, channeling a harmonious vibe that surely couldn’t have been achieved if it was smack bang in the middle of Berri-UQAM. Give it a closer look the next time you fancy a walk by the canal.
Carved wall panels, De la Savane metro
While this isn’t the only piece of art in this station (there’s also that big, spiky sculpture by Maurice Lemieux) the reliefs that decorate the platform in this metro deserve a shout-out as well. Their curving wave-like patterns manage to catch all the attention despite featuring no colour at all.
The whole station was designed by Guy de de Varennes and Almas Mathieu back in the mid-eighties but unintentionally ended up being a little backwards. What is now the front entrance was originally supposed to be the back end, though no one seems to mind that much! It’s nice that such a small station wasn’t overlooked when jazzing up the STM with art, and it's a great place to start when checking out this cozy neighbourhood’s hidden gems.
Bonheur d'occasion, Place-Saint-Henri metro
The area surrounding this metro station is one of the most popular places to live these days, so chances are you've walked by this piece before, which was created by Julien Hébert in 1976. ‘Bonheur d’occasion’ is spelled out on the wall in glazed bricks, and is so huge you to be on the other side of the tracks to really appreciate the whole thing. The title and concept are based on the original French version of Gabrielle Roy’s ‘The Tin Flute’, one of the most famous French-Canadian novels of all time and set in Saint-Henri itself, making it a great addition to this artsy little ‘hood.
Those who are trendy enough to be hitting up the cool bars and restaurants in this part of town can also enjoy the brightly coloured sections along the platform - those were designed by Hébert too!
If your heart belongs to Montreal but you’re looking for a change of pace, moving to one of the more chill neighbourhoods listed here could be the answer. Mondev, a Montreal-based real estate developer, are offering condos for sale and for rent at super-affordable prices in the most coveted areas, ensuring everyone can find a place to call home.