Montreal is a city filled to the brim with history, culture and art. Of course we have museums, art galleries, and a gorgeous old town but we’re known to go beyond your average cultural city. We scatter statues and art installations around town, dedicate an entire neighborhood to graffiti and murals, and to get from one attraction to the other we have our metro system. Despite being the backdrop of almost every Montrealais’ daily routine we’ve managed to avoid becoming jaded which, I believe, has to do with each station housing a unique piece of art.
Some are easier to spot than others. The magnificent abstract stained glass mural of our founding fathers (and mother) located at Berri-Uqam station or the “Tree of Life” sculpture carved into a 150-year-old tree sitting smack dab in the middle of Lionel-Groulx station tend to get the most attention. However, Montreal is like a museum overflowing with masterpieces. With so much to see and do it’s easy to understand how most people miss the understated pieces on the way to the main exhibit.
I’ve compiled a list of the top five metro art installations most guide books forget to mention but you definitely don’t want to miss. Montreal’s beauty comes from its subtle gems, so next time you’re commuting look up and take everything in as you might just realize that you chose the scenic route after all.
1. Terra Cotta Metro
Although not as impressive as the Terra Cotta Warriors in China, the Université de Montréal station's terra cotta mural remains a pretty remarkable piece of metro art. Depicting the four elements—air, water, earth and fire—this piece reminds us that even with all our technological advances our world’s natural wonders will never cease to amaze us. Best of all, unlike its warrior counterparts you can feel free to touch this mural as much as you like. Just prepare yourself for some odd looks from passing commuters.
2. Proud Parents
As small children, we all felt that sense of pride when our parents' decided to place our artwork on the fridge, but Montreal has taken it one step further. Henri-Bourassa station has a mural made up of 330 blocks of cement. Each block is based off of a Montreal child’s sketch centered on houses, parks, transportation and people in the city. Take a few minutes to look at each block and admire the infinite potential of our youth. Then, go home and ask your parents why your artwork never made it onto a piece of public infrastructure.
3. Underground Sun
With Montreal winters being quite harsh some locals have decided to completely skip braving the elements and stay underground. With the largest underground city in the world and a pretty extensive metro system, it isn’t such a hard feat to achieve. However, sometimes we miss the sun and that’s where Joliette station comes in. This station has huge beautiful back-lit glass circles depicting the movements of the sun. Don’t worry, I promise we aren’t all mole-people but you can learn about our solar system from the warmth and comfort of our metro.
4. Rock Wall
As you venture through our metro system you may start imagining what it was like underground before our metro was created. Well, the mural at Côte-Vertu station can answer that question for you. Designed to represent rock faces exposed by a rift, the dynamic piece uses different finishes on its surface to play with light and shadows giving it a look as realistic as if you tunnelled your way down there yourself.
5. Time to Go
The last stop on this is list is Acadie station where you will find an art-deco style clock sculpture. Beyond simply being beautiful, the sculpture has two benches attached, representing the hands of a clock. When was the last time you could truly say you were on time?
Now it’s your turn to catch the metro and explore all the wonders on this list and find many more of your own.
By: Natasha Izak