There is something satisfying about turning a corner in a grid of unremarkable buildings—offices, laundromats, Chinese takeouts, utilitarian staples—when a mural pounces out of the greyness. Proud of its hiding spot? I doubt it; a mural is not meant to shy away from eyes. It’s an indication that a city has decided it no longer needs to quarantine its art to funky neighborhoods. Free funk for all.
I considered such thoughts during my last visit to Montreal. Of course, one would expect vibrant murals adorning the buildings along Rue Sainte-Catherine, where college students put away bowls of inexpensive Vietnamese noodles and plates of Turkish lahmacun. But it seemed wherever I went in the city, murals were never off limits.
Just as a billboard paid for by the highest bidder was not chosen by the people of the neighborhood in which the billboard blares its advert, the art was most likely not chosen by local committee either. The murals may not be to everyone’s liking, but, in a way, the artwork evens the playing field of what is in view on a walk around the city. Here are some of my favorites from that August, 2019 visit. Note that over time, some of all of these murals will disappear and yield to new murals. A city inhaling, exhaling, living. Trying on new hats. Distilling recent thoughts and feelings. Or, just because it wants something new.