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What to See

A listing of some of the decorative arts exhibits from coast to coast. This section is updated every few months - please check individual links for the latest exhibition news if needed.


Gardiner Museum

Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenment

October 17, 2019 - January 19, 2020

Food and dining were transformed in Europe during the age of Enlightenment by profound changes that still resonate today. What many of us eat, the way food is cooked, and how we dine continues to be influenced by radical changes that occurred in France from 1650 until the French Revolution in 1789.

Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenmentexplores the story of this transformation with rare objects, fascinating histories, and amusing stories. We start in the kitchen gardens at Versailles where advances in horticulture expanded the growing seasons of vegetables and fruits, making a greater selection of foods available year-round. Then we visit the steamy kitchens of cooks who advocated light, flavourful cuisine centuries before our time. Next, we discover surprisingly modern philosophies for healthy eating and vegetarianism, and join ardent foodies as they savour meals served on newly invented ceramic and silver wares, from sauceboats to tureens. Along the way, we explore how social changes were impacting eating then, just as now, as the grand formality of the past was abandoned in favour of informality and intimacy.

Savour: Food Culture in the Age of Enlightenment is organized by the Gardiner Museum and curated by Meredith Chilton, C.M., Curator Emerita. Works of art and objects from major North American museums and private collections, as well as key pieces of contemporary ceramics and knitted art, will come together in a delectable feast for the senses designed by Opera Atelier’s Resident Set Designer, Gerard Gauci.

The Diana Reitberger Collection of Modern and Contemporary Ceramics

August 29, 2018 - January 15, 2020

The Diana Reitberger Collection of Modern and Contemporary Ceramics stands out for both its breadth and focus. Its arrival at the Gardiner Museum significantly enhances the institution’s representation of Canadian artists across an extraordinary spectrum of contemporary approaches, including vessels, figurative sculpture, and abstract forms. The Reitberger Collection is significant also for revealing new connections between Canadian artists and leading international makers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan. As a whole, it presents an overview of recent activity in the field of studio ceramics with an emphasis on Canada, yet an eye to the world.


Royal Ontario Museum

The Cloth that Changed the World

April 4, 2020 - September 27, 2020

Made with novel cotton, vivid colours and exuberant design, the painted and printed cottons of India changed human history; they revolutionized art, fashion and science wherever they went around the globe. Featuring pieces from the Museum’s world-renowned collection, this ROM original exhibition explores however thousands of years India’s artisans have created, perfected and innovated these printed and painted multicoloured cotton fabrics to fashion the body, honour divinities, and beautify palaces and homes.

Presenting the fascinating stories behind the people who made, commissioned, shipped, sold and ultimately used these pieces, The Cloth that Changed the World considers India’s textile innovations and their influences on art, trade and industry around the world in places as far as Cairo, Japan, Sumatra, London, and Montreal. They were the luxury fabric of their day, coveted by all, and one of the great inventions that drew foreigners to India’s shores hungry for more. Discover how through trade-routes, encounters, and exchange, these cloths connected cultures and,quite literally, changed the world. 



Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University

Stepping Out: Clothes for a Gallery Goer

April 27, 2019 - December, 2019

Gallery going emerged as a public pleasure in Canada in the late nineteenth century and continues (as we strongly believe at the Agnes!) to be an engaging cultural activity. Stepping Out proposes outfits and accessories that one might wear to an art museum—perhaps to an exhibition opening, at a children’s event, for a study session, or on a Sunday afternoon. Drawing upon the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress, the exhibition features clothing, from the 1860s to 1970s, stepping through gallery spaces and intermingling with contemporaneous works of art. Talented unknown dressmakers are highlighted alongside Canadian and international designers such as El Jamon, Elsie Densem, Jonathan Logan and Zandra Rhodes. From walking sticks and moody landscapes to mod dresses and video art, many objects are on view for the first time. Come and imagine yourself in a different pair of shoes.  Curated by Alicia Boutilier, with Carolyn Dowdell, Deirdre Macdonald, Elaine MacKay and Sophia Zweifel.


Musée d’art de Joliette

Joliette, QC

Permanent Installation

Claudie Gagnon:  Collections, Suspended Time

Introduced as part of the Politique d’intégration desarts à l’architecture, Collections, Suspended Time is by multidisciplinary artist Claudie Gagnon. Fixed above the staircase that leads to the museum’s roof, the piece is composed by a hundred or so glass and crystal objects. Hung from a polished stainless steel plaque, the installation is enhanced by a striking mirror effect. At dusk, Collections, Suspended Time remains visible from the street, a special lightning designed accordingly. When seen from far, the piece produces a sparkling myriad that glimmers according to the natural light. Admired from close, one can take in all its finer details.

A mise en abyme of the museum’s primary function, Collections, Suspended Time assembles hundreds of second-hand objects that remind us of ancient artifacts found in curiosity cabinets from another time, gathered from different fields including science and the arts. As if they were frozen in time, these objects form an imaginative and playful entity that taps into the imagination.


McCord Museum

Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist

September 6, 2019 – January 12, 2020

Focusing on the theme The Life of Things, proposed by curator María Wills Londoño, MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image presents The Archivist, by Celia Perrin Sidarous in collaboration with the McCord Museum.

The exhibition explores the historiographic charge of objects in creating photographic stagings. The Archivist shows items from the McCord Museum’s collection next to photographs and objects made or acquired by Perrin Sidarous over the years. Two collections— one institutional and the other personal – enter into dialogue in the gallery.

Celia Perrin Sidarous creates photographic scenes and settings that interrogate the functions and uses specific to the items they contain—images, objects, structures, and architectural components—by creating new links between them. Drawing in equal measure from the Western discipline of history and the rules of still life, interior decorating, and exhibition design, Perrin Sidarous’s work deconstructs the conditions under which we normally approach objects.


Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration

October 24, 2019 - April 26, 2020

The exhibition sheds light on the creative world of Montreal designer Jean-Claude Poitras. It takes a look at the man who left his mark on prêt-à-porter in Montreal and the rest of Canada over the course of a prolific career spanning more than three decades, from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Clothing, objects, archival material and multimedia displays reveal the designer’s personality and his three major sources of inspiration: family and religion, muses and film, and travel.

This joint presentation of the McCord Museum and the Musée de la civilisation will be shown at the Musée de la civilisation from June 20 to September 15, 2019, then at the McCord Museum from October 24, 2019, to April 26, 2020.

Canadian Museum of History

Fragments of Humanity: Archaeology in Quebec

Until November 3, 2019

Explore 50 years of archaeological discoveries in Quebec. This exhibition brings together some 210 exceptional pieces, many of which are being displayed for the first time. It highlights the rich and varied archaeological collections of Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications, Pointe-à-Callière and Parks Canada, as well as other important collections. Discovered underground or underwater, the fragments of humanity it presents tell stories that reveal different aspects of our history.

A travelling exhibition developed by Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, in collaboration with the Government of Quebec, and with the financial support of the Government of Canada.


Beaverbrook Art Gallery

The Pre-Raphaelite Heavenly Vision

January 6, 2019 - December 30, 2019

The Pre-Raphaelites assimilated Greek myth, the Bible, Romantic literature and Christian martyrology as their primary subject matter. The Pre-Raphaelite artworks from our permanent collection also include drawings by Sir William Blake Richmond, Ford Maddox Brown, John William Waterhouse, Sir John Everett Millais, among others. Curated by Allen Bentley and John Leroux and organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Decorative Art Exhibitions Abroad

External links:

"London Calling", an exhibition on the British rock band The Clash with instruments and objects belonging to the musicians, Museum of London

"Invisible Men" (Largest exhibition on British men's fashion), Westminster Menswear Archive, London

The World of Anna Sui, Museum of Arts and Design, Paris

Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Marquise Arconati Visconti, femme libre et mécène d’exception, December 2019 to March 15, 2020, MAD Museum, Paris

Le 61 rue de Monceau, l’autre hôtel Camondo, October 17, 2019 to March 15, 2020, MAD Museum, Paris

Decorative Art + Design News

External links:

"Canada no longer has a Design Museum"

AH Wilkens to offer historically significant military and political letters from 18th- & 19th-century Quebec, including documents signed by King Louis XIV to the first Canadian born Baron of New France (de Longueuil), September 17, 2019

The Monteal Museum of Fine Arts has appointed Jennifer Laurent as Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts

"A documentary by Vancouver-based graphic designer Greg Durrell explores the surprisingly rich history behind thenation’s postwar design culture"

Royal Canadian Mint Unveils New Loonie Marking LGBTQ2 Progress

"Remembering Henry Hawley: Cleveland Museum of Art decorative arts curator with an amazing eye for excellence" 

The Canadian Society of Decorative Arts/ Cercle canadien des arts décoratifs was formed, with the generous support
of the Macdonald Stewart Foundation, to provide a forum for all those interested in the decorative arts.
© 2019 Canadian Society of Decorative Arts / Cercle canadien des arts décoratifs