Montreal, October 18, 2018 – The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is pleased to present, from October 20, 2018, to January 20, 2019, a retrospective of the unique oeuvre of a leading figure of Québec’s avant-garde and signatory of the Refus global manifesto: Françoise Sullivan. A luminary in the history of Québec art, Sullivan began her career in the 1940s, where she was part of the emerging Automatist movement, and never ceased reinventing herself. This major MAC retrospective will showcase a wide-ranging, prolific artistic career that has left an important mark on contemporary art in Canada. Some fifty works will be shown, including paintings, sculptures, and archival documentation, accompanied by a special program of unique performances. “Already an accomplished painter, dancer and choreographer seventy years ago, Françoise Sullivan is now considered Québec’s first multidisciplinary artist,” notes John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC.

The Françoise Sullivan retrospective, along with the Julian Rosefeldt and Scores exhibitions, are the last in the current MAC building before the museum undertakes its major transformation in 2019. During the renovations, the MAC will remain active by moving in a smaller temporary space later in 2019, and by offering an artistic programming to the public.

Exploring the sources of human nature

While Françoise Sullivan’s involvement with the Automatists marks a watershed moment in the artist’s life and Québec art history, her contribution to modern Québec runs much deeper. Over the course of a prolific career, Sullivan has explored the sources of human nature, posing a number of aesthetic questions that brought her into the fold of multiple avant-garde movements in Québec art. In the words of Mark Lanctôt, Curator at the MAC, Sullivan spent her career “searching for new ways of both being of her time and expressing a timeless interiority, a new universalism driven by the desire to reach beyond herself.”

The Françoise Sullivan exhibition celebrates the artist’s wide-ranging artistic approaches with an impressive selection of works and archival pieces representing milestones from the artist’s career and celebrating Sullivan’s development from the 1940s to the present day.

An impressive slate of performances at the MAC

In addition to the artworks on display, the MAC will present a cycle of performances representative of Françoise Sullivan’s important work as a choreographer and contemporary dancer. To integrate these performances in the exhibition, the Museum commissioned performing artists to present new works in a specially designed performance space. Invited artists include Dana Michel (associate artist at Par B.L.eux), The Two Gullivers (Flutura & Besnik Haxhillari), Dorian Nuskind-Oder, Simon Grenier-Poirier, Catherine Lavoie-Marcus and Maryse Larivière. Performances will be presented beginning on October 23. The performance schedule is available on the MAC website:


  • The Françoise Sullivan retrospective will embark on a multi-city Canadian tour organized in collaboration with two Ontario museums: the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, and the Art Gallery of Windsor. It will then be shown in the Musée régional de Rimouski (Québec) and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (British Columbia). This travelling exhibition is funded in part by the Government of Canada.

  • Cultural activities, in October, as part of the Françoise Sullivan exhibition:

    • Round table with the authors of the Françoise Sullivan catalogue: Vincent Bonin, Ray Ellenwood, Mark Lanctôt and Noémie Solomon. Friday, October 19, 3 p.m. (in French and English).

    • Guided tour with Mark Lanctôt, curator, and Françoise Sullivan, artist. Thursday, October 25 (in French, 6 p.m.; in English, 7 p.m.).

To see the full listing of MAC cultural activities:


Born in Montreal in 1923, Françoise Sullivan studied at Montreal’s École des beaux-arts in the 1940s, during which time she and a circle of artist friends headed by Paul-Émile Borduas established the movement known as “Les Automatistes.” A co-signatory of the group’s Refus global manifesto, she contributed a seminal essay on contemporary dance, “La Danse et l’espoir” (Dance and Hope). An accomplished painter, dancer and choreographer, she spent the years from 1945 to 1947 in New York studying modern dance under Franziska Boas, among others. Shortly after returning to Montreal, she created Danse dans la neige (Dance in the Snow) (1948), which marked a defining moment in her artistic career. In the 1960s, she turned her attention to sculpture, working notably with steel and Plexiglas. She made her first trips to Greece and Italy in the 1970s, and, as a member of the Véhicule Art artist-run centre, Sullivan experimented with performative and “immaterial” approaches associated with conceptual art. The 1980s marked a return to painting, with matierist tondos and later figurative works inspired by ancient mythology. During the second half of the 1990s, she embarked on a lengthy exploration of abstract painting, a passion she continues to pursue today.

Françoise Sullivan taught at Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts from 1977 to 2009. Her works have been shown in Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Japan. She has received the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas and the Order of Canada and was named a knight of the Order of Québec. Retrospectives of her work have been mounted by the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. In 2005, Françoise Sullivan won the Governor General’s Award in the Visual and Media Arts, and in 2008, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize.


For the Françoise Sullivan retrospective, the MAC will publish a substantial catalogue (288 pages, 180 illustrations), featuring essays by Mark Lanctôt, exhibition curator, Vincent Bonin, Ray Ellenwood and Noémie Solomon. An illustrated chronology, written by Chantal Charbonneau, completes the publication. The catalogue is available for $39.95 at the MAC Boutique.


The Françoise Sullivan exhibition is curated by Mark Lanctôt, Curator at the MAC.

Also at the MAC : Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto and Scores

Opening October 20, the MAC will also present Manifesto, a large-scale video installation on thirteen screens, German artist Julian Rosefeldt’s tribute to the power and literary beauty of artist manifestos. Celebrated Australian actor Cate Blanchett is featured in this tour-de-force that draws on architecture, cinema, theatre and the performing and visual arts to explore foundational texts by artists who have left their mark on the history of art in the 20th century.

A third MAC exhibition, also beginning October 20, Scores is conceived as a link between the two other exhibitions, presenting original manifestos and documents referenced in Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto exhibition, along with Refus global and other historic manifestos. The exhibition presents manifestos as “scores” designed to express the constantly evolving power of language to transform the world.


The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.

The MAC acknowledges the support of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, a partner for educational activities, and of the National Bank of Canada, a partner of the Museum’s and the Foundation’s events. The MAC would also like to thank its media partners: La Presse, The Gazette, and the Cinémas Beaubien and Cinéma du Parc movie theatres. For the Françoise Sullivan exhibition, the MAC acknowledges the support of Théâtre Lachapelle and Centre de Création O Vertigo (CCOV). Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto, is presented with the support of Goethe-Institut Montréal. Also for Julian Rosefeldt: Manifesto, the MAC acknowledges the support of two special partners: the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, where the MAC will co-present the film Ray and Liz by Richard Billingham on October 6 and 13, 2018, and Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM), which runs November 8 to 18, 2018. The MAC and RIDM will co-present the film SEGUNDA VEZ (2018), by Dora García, on Tuesday, November 13, 2018, at 1:30 p.m., and on Sunday, November 18, 2018, at 7 p.m.

Manifesto has been co-commissioned by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image Melbourne (ACMI), the Art Gallery of New South Wales Sydney, the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Sprengel Museum Hanover. The work is co-produced by the Burger Collection Hong Kong and the Ruhrtriennale. It was realized thanks to the generous support of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and in cooperation with Bayerischer Rundfunk.

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal makes today’s art a vital part of Montréal and Québec life. For more than fifty years, this vibrant museum has brought together local and international artists, their works and an ever-growing public. It is also a place of discovery, offering visitors experiences that are continually changing and new, and often unexpected and stirring. The MAC presents temporary exhibitions devoted to outstanding and relevant current artists who provide their own particular insight into our society, as well as exhibitions of works drawn from the museum’s extensive Permanent Collection. These may feature any and every form of expression: digital and sound works, installations, paintings, sculptures, ephemeral pieces, and more. In addition to its wide range of educational activities familiarizing the general public with contemporary art, the MAC organizes unique artistic performances and festive events. It is a window onto a myriad of avant-garde expressions that extend the reach of art throughout the city and beyond.

Source and Information

Anne Dongois
T. 514 826-2050
[email protected]