Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918

June 18 - September 27, 2009


More about the exhibition's Eco-design


With the presentation of Expanding Horizons, Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918, and in keeping with its theme of celebrating nature, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is making a green shift with the exhibition's environment-ally friendly design, furnishings and catalogue.

Eco-design is a contemporary practice that aims to prevent and anticipate the environmental impact of a project at all stages of its production. It takes into account the materials' re-use capacity -- for example, for a future exhibition; the distance travelled for transport, with a bias towards local products; as well as the composition of selected materials that are recycled or barely processed, and biodegradable and/or non-toxic.

"Over and above art-historical research, how can we also integrate certain values that are common to us all? Each time we plan an exhibition, we are challenged by the absolutely essential issue of its relevance not only in scholarly, but also in wider, societal terms," declares the Museum's Director, Nathalie Bondil. "That is why I wanted to take a very environmentally friendly approach to the exhibition design and catalogue of this contemporary take on the subject of landscape, and asked Frédéric Back, a visionary who has always put his art at the service of the natural world, to act as spokesperson. The Museum, of course, intends this to be a long-term commitment involving every level of the institution."


Exhibition design

In order to implement this innovative project, the Museum is collaborating with a number of professionals. For the exhibition design, two world-renowned companies have accepted the eco-design challenge: Montreal architecture firm Atelier Big City and Vancouver design studio molo.

Founded in 1987, Atelier Big City is a collective of three architectural practitioners. The team employs innovative materials and construction methods. The concept for the exhibition fixtures and fittings emphasizes recyclable or reusable materials, and the construction methods will be mostly mechanical. These choices are intended to limit the use of adhesives and toxic materials and to reduce waste. Wooden components partially feature formaldehyde-free medium-density fibreboard; in fact, most of the lumber used in mounting the exhibition has 35% recycled wood content. Moreover, materials from previous exhibitions were reused to create the décor of the various Expanding Horizons galleries. To help preserve air quality, the paint used throughout the exhibition contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Represented in the MoMA collection and known internationally for its work inspired by nature, molo has created the furnishings for the exhibition's rest areas. Particular use will be made of molo's popular softseating paper benches, which have a flexible honeycomb structure made out of 50% recycled content. Their organic and harmonious geometrical forms will echo the design of the exhibition by creating actual interior landscapes. Furthermore, because it is light in weight and can be folded, the environmental impact of shipping this 100% recyclable furniture is reduced.


The catalogue

Two other partners have been entrusted with producing the exhibition's innovative catalogue, a real breakthrough in the field of art book publishing: orangetango, responsible for the graphic design, and Transcontinental Litho Acme for the printing.

The design studio orangetango has already made the green shift because of its own environmentally responsible artistic concerns. Its ethical practices are reflected in the emphasis placed on recycled materials and in the use of local resources. The catalogue reflects the eco-friendly perspective through its division into separate booklets printed on two different types of paper: for the text, rough paper composed of 100% post-consumer fibres and, for the reproduction of the works, paper made up of 30% post-consumer fibres designed to absorb less ink.

For its part, Transcontinental Litho Acme has literally made eco-design its business, basing every aspect of its production on recycled, recyclable and non-polluting materials. The elements involved in producing the Museum's publication -- the aluminum printing plates, vegetable inks and FSC-certified paper -- will conform to the strictest regulations of good environmental management. By maximizing the printed page, the format of the catalogue will also help reduce waste. Lastly, rigorous preparation and frequent controls conducted by qualified personnel will prevent print reruns and unnecessary spoilage.

In order to meet the challenge presented by the growing number of projects with an ecological theme, the Museum continues to associate itself with enthusiastic and imaginative professionals.

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