The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1860 by Bishop Fulford. At the time, The Art Association of Montreal was created to encourage the appreciation of fine arts among the people of the city and today has one of the highest attendance rates among Canadian museums.
Every year, more than 1 million people visit its unique encyclopedic and its original temporary exhibitions, which combine artistic disciplines (fine arts, music, film, fashion, design) and feature innovative exhibition designs. It conceives, produces and circulates many of its exhibitions across Europe and North America.
Over 200,000 families and schoolchildren take part in its educational, cultural and community-oriented programmes each year. The fall of 2011 saw the opening of a fourth pavilion at the Museum – the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art – and a 444-seat concert venue – Bourgie Hall – housing an outstanding collection of Tiffany stained glass windows.
This expansion also brought about the reinstallation of the Museum’s rich holdings in its other three pavilions, which house the world cultures, international art, Medieval to contemporary European art, and decorative art and design collections. Music is now an integral part of the Museum, providing another perspective on the visual arts, through musical audioguides and other innovative activities.
The Studios Art & Education Michel de la Chenelière, which were inaugurated in 2012, have almost doubled the Museum’s facilities for schools, families and community groups. A fifth pavilion devoted to international art and education will open its doors in 2017 for Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
The MMFA is spread across four pavilions, and occupies a total surface area of 45,067 square metres (485,100 sq ft), including 13,000 square metres (140,000 sq ft) of exhibition space. A fifth pavilion is currently under construction, which will have a surface area of 3,460 square metres (37,200 sq ft). This expansion will make it the eighteenth largest art museum in North America.
The permanent collection includes approximately 40,000 works. The original ‘reading room’ of the Art Association of Montreal was the precursor of the current library of the museum. It is the oldest library in Canada dedicated to art.
In October 2004, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts launched Sharing the Museum, a collaborative educational programme for non-profit community organizations. Any community organization that works with cultural communities, senior citizens, youth at risk, people from poorer neighbourhoods, disadvantaged families or those with physical and intellectual disabilities is invited to participate in the programme.