Late autumn 2011 saw a truly titanic payoff for the first two and a half years of EN MASSE’s efforts!

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was eager to celebrate its expansion (that fall had seen the opening of the new Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Québec and Canadian Art and Bourgie Concert Hall, in the recently restored Erskine and American Church across from the Museums’s main building on Sherbrooke). They wisely chose to do so with an end-of-year exhibition called Big Bang!: Creativity Is Given Carte Blanche, running from 6 November, 2011, to 22 January 22, 2012.

In the Muesum’s official words, the institution:

“wished to pay tribute to contemporary creativity by organizing a multidisciplinary exhibition, an innovative and unifying event, free of charge and accessible to everyone. Some 20 renowned artists from several disciplines were given carte blanche to create an installation, the only condition being that it be based on a work of their choice from the Museum’s collection, to renew and reinvent it.”

A long list of luminaries — Denys Arcand and Adad Hannah, Gilles Saucier, Melissa Auf der Maur, Pierre Lapointe, Marie Chouinard, Collectif Rita, Renata Morales, Michel Rabagliati and more — were assigned rooms to create installations in. EN MASSE was given the biggest of the Museum’s galleries, with the task of filling up every inch of its 4200 sqare feet of wall space.

An unprecedented production for the En Masse team, the Big Bang installation, entitled “EN MASSE @ MBAM”, began with an original, black-and-white work by A. R. Penck, a bold and primitive piece, off of which the crew would riff. That was supplemented by printouts of black-and-white images from the Museum’s collection —Dürer prints, Mayan earthenware and more — wheatpasted randomly around the still-whitewalled salon.

Then, over ten days, an EM team of 33 clambered up scaffolding, cranked up the Skyjack and went wild on those white walls. When the dust settled (and the Fatboy lounging cushions were dragged in), the result was a monumental fresco that was opening-night attendees overwhelmingly described as, well, “overwhelming”.

“EN MASSE @ MBAM” was painted over at the end of January 2012, but not before numerous high-end photos were taken to preserve the imagery, which along with Fred Caron’s dynamic production pix and some informative essays, were assembled in an elegant catalogue — a first for EN MASSE.

The team for this keystone EN MASSE production was Alan Ganev, Andrew DaSilva, Antoine Tavaglione, Astro, Beeforeo, Billy Mavreas, Carlos Santos, Caro Caron, Chris Dyer, David Samson, Dewey Thang Nguyen, Étienne Chartrand, Fred Caron, Fred Casia, Gene Pendon, Jason Botkin, Jason Wasserman, Kevin Ledo, Kirsten McCrea, Krista Bursey, Lisa Czech, Mark Unterberger, Melissa Del Pinto, Olivier Roy, Pascal Rodrigue, Peru Dyer, Peter Ferguson, Rage5, Raphaële Bard, Rupert Bottenberg, Salgood Sam, Tyler Rauman, Tyson Bodnarchuk

A huge thanks to the Museum’s chief curator Nathalie Bondil, its curator of contemporary art Stéphane Aquin, and production director Sandra Gagné, and to all the supportive staff whose help and encouragement allowed this amazing installation to come to life.