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Montreal's Metro Art Explained

You've seen it, but do you get it?
Montreal's Metro Art Explained

Photo cred - Koshi

Adding to Montreal's artist culture are the many pieces of artwork placed in many of the city's metro stations. Murals, sculptures, and some crazy architecture make certain metro stations look beautiful, but as is the case with most art, what the hell are they supposed to mean?

To make you seem like an expert critic, we've looked into some of the most confusing of artworks in Montreal's metro stations. Read on and get some art-cred.

Place des Arts: Histoire de la musique à Montréal (1967)

Artist: Frédéric Back

Materials: Painted glass and wrought iron

An artistic ode to Montreal's musical history, this painted glass mural features numerous famous figures from Jaques Cartier's era to modern times. While its hard to tell, musicians like Calixa Lavallée, Guillaume Couture, and Alexis Contant make up the slightly ghostly figures painted across the eastern end of the station.

LaSalle Station: Mural (1978)

Artist: Peter Gnass

Materials: Stainless steel

Sunlight gleaming into LaSalle station through the roof's window inspired the creation of this gigantic stainless steel monument, as the many angles of the metallic structure are meant to reflect the natural light and movements of metro riders...and not for you to creep on people walking behind you.

Villa-Maria Station: Circles (1981)

Artist: André Léonard

Materials: Polymer concrete and stainless steel

A very literal title masks the artistic intent behind these disk-shaped murals. Placed all around the station, the slit carved into every circle is 45 degrees relative to its neighbor is meant to create a sense of moving forward. Yellow circles are placed by the station's exit to direct metro riders towards the sun. I guess giant arrows would have been far less subtle.

Acadie Station: Murals Of Cartwheelers (1988)

Artist: Jean Mercier

Materials: Enamelled steel

Who are these cartwheeling folks? Well, the artist actually took photos of the architects that designed the station along with members of his family. Weightlessly performing acrobatics, the pictures are meant to express openness in contrast to the restriction of the underground metro.

Assomption Station: Weird Shape Murals (1976)

Artist: Guy Montpetit

Materials: Laminated plastic

Parading across the entrance walls of Assomption station are a bunch of strange figures and animals made out of brightly coloured mechanical shapes. The murals are meant to "gaze" back at you, so to get a little cultural studies on you: the murals are meant to reflect the cage-like environment of the metro car, much like an animal at the zoo or a circus performer. Or, you know, they just look cool.

Montmorency: Les Fluides (2007)

Artist: Hélène Rochette

Materials: Aluminum

Flowing through the wide expanse of the metro stations, the four fluid structures are meant to guide metro riders into and out of the station with a strong flash of vibrant colour. Fun fact: the largest sculpture (orange) is ten metres in length.

Parc Station: The Metamorphosis of Icarus (1987)

Artist: Claire Sarrasin

Materials: Acrylic, silk, and liquid crystals

For those who need to brush up on your Greek myth, Icarus was a man who strove for such heights of greatness that he flew too close to the sun and his mechanical wings melted, resulting in his death. Not exactly uplifting (pun!) but Parc station's sculpture, with its relfection of rainbow colours, is meant to symbolize Icarus's aspirations to reach for the heights of heaven. And here I thought it was just a butterfly.

Find out more about your favourite metro stations here.

What is your favourite piece explained?

For more on all things Montreal, follow Michael on Twitter @MDAlimonte

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