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Arts

From Russia with love

Posted by Chip / April 17, 2006

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Ever since I graduated from school, oh about eight years ago, I’ve tried to avoid learning at all costs. Unfortunately, this task had been carried out too successfully, to the point where on some nights, reality television became intriguing. And somehow, the fulfillment that usually comes along with achieving ones goals seemed to be lacking. Alas, it was time to restructure my goals – I would try to learn again.

Montreal is often heralded as this center of culture. I never really bought into it, figuring that the sole reason for this acclamation was the presence, in a North American city, of a primary language other than English. Perhaps by ‘taking in’ some of this culture, I might begin my newfound journey of resurrecting my brain and gain insight into the city's culture. The only place to start? Why, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, of course. They have a limited time exhibit of former Russian Tsar, Catherine the Great’s collection of fine arts, and what better way to share my experience than in numbered list form.

Three things I learned by going to the museum:
1. Never go to the museum on a sunny, Sunday afternoon.

Maybe it was because it was the first nice day of the spring. Or perhaps, the throngs of people lining the exhibits were actually huge fans of Catherine the Great. Whatever the case may be, my ‘cultural’ outings will now be limited to weeknights. At any given time approximately 60% of any piece of art could actually be seen, as the remaining bits were blocked by passers by or those near-sited individuals who needed to get real close. I can also tell you what most people had had for lunch as escaping various sandwich aromas was next to impossible. Imagine being on the floor at a raucous rock concert, having to look through heads to catch a glimpse of the stage, being sprayed with strangers’ sweat and inhaling the fumes of beer and smoke breath…it was like that, only while being sober and not listening to music.

2. Catherine the Great exploited her power for sex.

C’mon! She had like, so many lovers. And several illegitimate kids to boot. I guess there’s something slightly alluring about an empress that rides around in a golden chariot. Seriously, if you’re in to Russian history, this is the last time you’ll ever get to see some of these pieces that are usually on display at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. They’ve been deemed to fragile to travel. The exhibit runs until May 7th at the Museum of Fine Art.
There’s also other, non-Russian exhibits, including a modern art collection that exposes many of today’s fashionable furniture outlets as copycats.

3. Escort companies photograph their ads at fancy museums

You’ve all seen them. You know, the flyers with photographs of scantily clad women, promoting a party or ‘discreet’ service. If you’ve never been handed one while exiting an eatery, then surely you’ve noticed them littering the sidewalks of St. Laurent or Crescent streets in the aftermath of any given weekend. Much to the delight of my newly curious mind, while leaving the Museum I happened upon two individuals making their way up to the entrance. One, a woman (an attractive woman, if you will) wearing clothing loose enough to expose her provocative undergarments, which in turn exposed well tanned skin. The other, a short, goateed, jean-jacket wearing man, wielding an expensive looking camera. Since it was obvious that they were waiting for me to leave, I pretended to, but maintained a watchful eye. Quickly (as though in a hurry to snap some shots), the young woman was leaning against the imposing wooden door of the entrance, one leg bent up against the door exposing more skin, and one hand behind her head as though she was either dancing or cozying up on a pillow. I always wondered if the photos in the flyers were real and not just shots of models taken from stock. Rest assured, as I stroll down the Boulevard this weekend I’ll be taking a peak to see if I recognize the any of the glossy faces looking back at me.

So, although I’m not sure what I set out to learn (it probably had something to do with Russia), I definitely came away with an educational experience. You should try it.

Discussion

9 Comments

J Mac / April 18, 2006 at 03:42 pm
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I fear that the "never go to the museum on a sunny Sunday afternoon" point could be expanded into "never go to the museum," at least if the point is that it could be crowded. The special exhibits there are <i>always</i> jammed, I've found. It's ridiculous. Maybe a weekday morning would be OK. Maybe.
OJ / April 18, 2006 at 05:03 pm
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True, Jmac. But I imagine that the topic of the exhibit might, at the very least, draw a different type of crowd...for example something on 21st century graffiti might bring out less 'old' people who can't see well.
Teddy / April 21, 2006 at 02:36 am
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What does Montreal have to offer? Foul roads and foul water delivered through leaking pipes. Over taxed citizens that should rise in protest against a useless mayor who only thinks of how to inflict greater costs on those who dare enter his realm. The big O, a colossal tribute to failure of worldly proportions, compounded by unabashed shameful behaviour of perpetuation despite citizen's pleas. Nepotism?
Unleashed police, prodding and prying into everything, unchecked by their masters. A second language that proves more of a problem than a solution. Hydro Quebec, owned by the people of Quebec, the same people who have never received one penny in cash from Hydro Quebec's ever upward spiralling profits. Hydro Quebec, the government cash cow with the "let them eat cake" philosophy of business management. A political system five times larger than that of the state of California. A legal system that is guided by political interests and completely foreign to anything remotely resembling justice. What can one learn by living in Montreal? Where not to be, you see.

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