The art of healing


Hospitals are not always regarded as the most pleasant places to visit. Yet some of them, like the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), offer visitors a bona fide arts tour within their halls, thanks to works of art that celebrate humanity and vitality in a way that is conducive to healing. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” said Picasso, in words now engraved on the wall at the MUHC.

Chosen for their high artistic quality, the works complement the local architecture and appeal to visitors and patients by their soothing nature. Taken together, they represent an intriguing tour of contemporary art within a hospital environment.

The Glen site of the MUHC offers a tour of its public artworks that is spread through 11 different architectural spaces. It features sculptures and installations by Michel Goulet, Cooke Sasseville, Denis FarleyGilles Mihalcean, Michel Saulnier and Martha Townsend. There is also a collection of posters, drawings and acrylic paintings by David Hockney, Henri Matisse and Picasso. Heritage pieces from the 19th century are on display, including two paintings by Robert Harris and a marble sculpture of Queen Victoria by Lady Feodora Gleichen. A tour of these works has been mapped out and documented for visitors. 

Over at the CHUM, ten proposals for public artworks have been selected and they will be installed there by the end of 2016. Three other creations will be added to these by 2020. Made of glass, metal or steel, they all share a theme of natural light.
They include photographs in tempered glass by Henri Venne, a luminous monumental sculpture by Jean-Philippe Roy, an installation by Louise Viger evoking fireflies, a mosaic of poetry and mountain images by the Doyon-Rivest collective, an aerial piece by Karilee Fuglem that evokes the Montréal skyline, a sonic device by Catherine Béchard and Sabin Hudon (it resonates in the historic Saint-Sauveur bell tower), a monumental sculpture by Klaus Scherübel, a painting by Yann Pocrau that recreates phases of the CHUM work site, and neo-baroque benches sculpted by Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell and Yannick Pouliot. There is also an installation of lighting art that joins the various spaces like a lifeline; its creator, Nicolas Baier, also has a sculpture on exhibit at the MUHC. 

Art can serve as a balm to the heart, and these diverse pieces will comfort hospital visitors and patients even as they bear witness to the creativity of artists from here and abroad.