A Riopelle museum project in L'Isle-aux-Grues

A Riopelle museum project in L’Isle-aux-Grues

(Quebec) This is where he painted one of his greatest works, bathed in island light and, in the distance, the jagged mountain landscape of Charlevoix. This is also where he died in 2002.

Posted yesterday at 4:47 p.m.

Gabriel Beland

Gabriel Beland
The Press

Jean Paul Riopelle had a great story with L’Isle-aux-Grues. And now his former companion presented an ambitious project for a “Riopelle museum-workshop” on Friday, which aims precisely to tell this love story between the artist and the archipelago.

The approximately 3,000 square foot museum was designed by architect Pierre Thibault. If the budget of 4.3 million manages to be completed, the museum will present from the summer of 2024 works from the personal collection of Huguette Vachon and artefacts which will be told by Robert Lepage thanks to augmented reality.

“We are going to find that light, the one in which he created, and present paintings that were done the same year as Tribute to Rosa Luxemburgwhose happy island and other paintings,” explains Mr.me Vachon, who shared the life of the painter during his last 15 years.

“From the place envisaged, we can see Baie-Saint-Paul, from Cap-Tourmente to Petite-Rivière-Saint-François. It is superb. It’s her place of inspiration,” she says.


Huguette Vachon and architect Pierre Thibault

At present, visitors who land on the archipelago off Montmagny have difficulty finding traces of the painter. His former studio is located in L’Île-aux-Oies, inaccessible to the public. It was also taken over by the painter Marc Séguin.

It was in this small workshop that Riopelle painted his Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg. Mme Vachon still lives in the MacPherson mansion, where the painter lived from 1995 until his death seven years later.

In a postcard landscape

For years, she therefore had the project of a small museum in the island of 125 inhabitants in memory of her spouse. When a “pretty little run-down house” came up for sale last summer, she jumped at the chance. The house came with a perfect plot for a small museum.

The Riopelle-Vachon Foundation is leading the project. She entrusted Pierre Thibault with the task of designing what is intended to be a “museum-workshop”.

The architect saw it as a nice twist of fate. Years ago, he had visited the island of Naoshima, Japan, a treasure trove of museums and art galleries. He said to himself: “We have everything to have that in Quebec. »

“But Isle-aux-Grues is even better than Japan. The landscape is absolutely grandiose,” he said Friday during the press conference to unveil the project.

  • The future Riopelle museum-workshop


    The future Riopelle museum-workshop

  • Exhibition hall of the future museum


    Exhibition hall of the future museum


The architect designed an airy place, which gives pride of place to light and the landscape. He wanted to use “archetypal shapes, shingles, large verandas to sit on”.

“There is a summary of the territory, of who we are, in his work,” says Pierre Thibault.

The place would serve as a museum during the high season, then as a gathering place for the inhabitants in the winter. The mayor supports the project.

“It will bring a new kind of tourism to the island. It’s a very nice project. The municipality is boarding at 100 miles an hour,” says Pierre Gariépy, mayor of Saint-Antoine-de-l’Isle-aux-Grues.

In competition with the MNBAQ?

Projects around Riopelle, one of the greatest Quebec and Canadian artists, are legion on the eve of the centenary of his birth, October 3, 1923.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts had considered, then finally ruled out, the construction of a wing dedicated to the painter. In the capital, the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec (MNBAQ) wants to begin in 2023 the construction of Espace Riopelle, a pavilion which will be entirely dedicated to it.

The former spouse of the painter does not think that his project competes with that of the MNBAQ.

“No, it has nothing to do with it,” she said. The island’s museum will be “intimate”, very focused on the relationship that the artist had with the archipelago.

“It’s going to be my works initially. Afterwards, we will expand the collection, but we are already capable, with my works, of supporting a beautiful space for years,” she says.

The museum will be built if the budget can be closed, thanks to the help of patrons, the public or the government. The wife of the Premier of Quebec, Isabelle Brais, also attended the presentation on Friday.

“That doesn’t mean that because it’s Riopelle, that the money will come in like that,” says the painter’s former friend André Michel, who is helping the Foundation with this project. “We will have to work. »

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