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Montréal’s amazing murals are a free street-level art gallery that’s always open

Posted by on June 6th, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Tour de L'ile in Montreal-34.jpg

Suddenly the wall comes alive with color and expression.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Public street murals are more than just pretty paintings on walls, they’re signs of a healthy city. By that measure, Montréal is full of life. The city is teeming with such a variety and volume of murals my head was literally spinning nearly as fast as my wheels as I cycled through its streets for the past four days.

From one end of the city to the other, in gentrifying neighborhoods like Mile End to downtown and the Old Port, murals adorn everything from college dorms to high-rise condominiums. Their subject matter is as diverse as their geography: abstract explosions of color, psychadelic dreamscapes, and even obvious references to pop culture.

I know I’m biased, but I think a bicycle is the perfect mural viewing platform. Unlike being in a car or a bus, you can stop and stare whenever you want for however long you want. You can’t see anything from the underground Metro. And you can cover much more ground on a bike than on foot.

And while murals aren’t roadway infrastructure (although in New York City they meld the two in a very cool way), my hunch is that they have a non-negligible impact on vehicular travel because they make moving through the city much more interesting. When people are interested in something — whether in a car or on a bike — they tend to go slower and operate their vehicles with more respect for the built environment. The murals make urban travel fun and exciting, instead of stressful. You also can’t discount the positive psychological impact they have — at least on people who like this style of art.

Montréal is proud of their murals. Their 11-day Mural Festival starts starts Thursday and features guided mural tours, lectures by artists, a conference, and a corporate-sponsored “VIP Experience”. It even has a companion smartphone app.

Check out a few more of the murals I spotted. Keep in mind, I never went out in search of them. All the images below were taken randomly as I biked around…

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For more on Montréal’s murals, check out Wall2WallMTL.com and the Art du Commun gallery.

Portland has a strong mural scene as well. To learn more about ours, don’t miss the Pedalpalooza PDX Mural Ride on June 16th.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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5 Comments
  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty June 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Wow… so much better than what we have around here. My current favorite Portland mural (dogs on bikes) appears to be in the process of demolition after being totally destroyed by taggers (though a couple of those pictured above seem to have been tagged as well).

    I keep hoping someone with sillz will hook up with the intersection painting people and do something inspiring. Imagine that trumpet player looking up from the ground, or that little boy with his toys circling around him in the middle of an intersection.

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  • Betsy Reese June 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Beautiful murals in Montreal.

    Google “Zagreb street murals” for more fabulous examples.

    Meanwhile, one of Portland’s most wonderful (and bike-themed) public murals http://www.forestforthetreesnw.com/locations/2500-se-8th-avenue/ is on a building that is being demolished this week, just two years after the mural was painted by street artists BMD. Roll by soon if you want to glimpse the last of it.

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  • JR'eh June 6, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Your radar is strong. That first one, Clandestinos, is on the side of a former bike shop! (Bicycletterie JR which now resides a block over at 201 Rue Rachel.) Thanks for the pics. I’d love to see more of this art in PDX.

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  • resopmok June 7, 2017 at 7:34 am

    Taggers and minor graffiti are really the bane of public murals, as shown even in a few of these examples. Anecdotally, it seems like the problem has been getting worse in the last 6 months or so, at least in NE Portland. The Cramer mural at Williams and Shaver, which will be demolished relatively soon along with the building it’s painted on (the rent-a-fence is in place), was defaced multiple times recently, and after being there 28 years, won’t be restored again.

    Who are the pig-headed, arrogant jerks who think scribbling their name on a well-done piece of art somehow improves it? It may be a lesser crime, but it sure makes pretty into ugly in a big hurry.

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  • janowa June 7, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Timely! Pedal with us at an art-lover’s pace around the 23 murals of downtown Vancouver this Sunday, June 11th. It’s part of our club’s celebration of the bicentennial birthday of the invention of the bicycle by Baron Karl von Drais (June 12, 1817). We’ll trace a 3-mile route and then eat chocolate and drink the beverage of your choice at either Tap Union or the Brickhouse. Details are on our calendar here: http://vbcusa.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=87&club_id=851488&item_id=660100 Helmets required. Old jersey, classic bike, birthday party outfit, balloons, German accent – all welcome, but optional.

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