Bleu de bleu is an art installation created at the initiative of National Bank to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The piece transforms the stretch of highway connecting the airport to downtown with the panache associated with Montreal. It’s estimated that some 290,000 commuters travel along this stretch of highway every day, and that more than 13 million people travel through the airport yearly.
Blue at First Glance
Bleu de bleu is an immersive art installation by Alain Paiement that lines a stretch of highway leading from the Montreal airport to the outskirts of the city.
Designed to evoke the shores of the St. Lawrence River, the work of art—lit by blue lights—pulses and adapts to the changing cityscape that surrounds it.
Bleu de bleu was designed to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary and is an initiative of National Bank and key partners.
Journey through a sea of blue that changes rhythmically with the moving landscape.
A few fun facts about Bleu de bleu
> 8 km — The distance spanned by Bleu de bleu from the Montreal airport to 1re Avenue.
> 200 km/h — Wind speed of the aircraft engines used to test the art installation’s sturdiness.
> 400 reflective panels installed along the highway.
> 4,000 concrete anchors needed to keep the electric cables in place.
> 83 light fixtures ranging from 17 to 22 feet in height that only use the same amount of energy as 3 standard highway lampposts.
> 2,850 meters of reflective sheeting.
> 12,000 feet of cable to power the installation with electricity.
> 2,500 litres of paint used to decorate the sound walls.
> 1,000 hours of work over 4 months.
> Meditative and minimalist electro music (from Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm), as well as raga, jazz and classical music were all sources of inspiration for the artist.
Immersive art installation
Bleu de bleu is an immersive art installation for those travelling along the stretch of highway leading from the Montreal airport to the outskirts of the city. Drivers will be immersed in a sea of blue that changes rhythmically with the moving landscape. More than just a representation of time passing, it evokes and mirrors Montrealers’ own journey through time and space.
Blue is an uplifting colour that surrounds us in our day-to-day. It’s also the colour that lines Montreal’s airport runway. Steeped in symbolism and meaning, blue is also the colour of the sky and ocean, a colour associated with the North, the Quebec flag, and the Montreal–Trudeau Airport.
Stretches of the highway are lit by LED light columns softly pulsating a pure blue light.
The work of art is a nod to its surroundings, like the white demarcation lines on the road, and the motifs found on the noise barriers and highway structures. Light columns, arranged vertically and horizontally, give rhythm to the cityscape, as well as to the various elements of the surrounding architecture and highway, such as lampposts, pillars and guardrails.
Along the length of the installation, this sea of blue acts like the soundwaves it was inspired by—and comes alive by transposing sounds emanating from soothing and rhythmic beats, hymns and melodies.
Alain Paiement: A renowned Quebec artist
With prior experience in painting, photography, installation, and architecture, the multi-talented Alain Paiement was the perfect candidate for a work of this calibre. It’s for these reasons that the selection committee chose the renowned multidisciplinary artist’s proposal.
Born in 1960 in Montreal, Alain Paiement has taught at the University of Ottawa and various universities in Quebec. Paiement took part in the Power of the City/City of Power exhibition in New York in 1992, the Mois de la Photographie in Paris in 1996, the Third Annual International Photo Biennale in Tokyo in 1999, the Tomorrow Forever, Photography as Ruin exhibition in Krems, Austria in 1998, and the ARCOmadrid in 2004 and 2005.
More recently, he took part in the Alice in Wonderland exhibitions in Turku, Finland and in Cadiz, Spain, and in the Lost in Landscape exhibit at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Trento, Italy. He was appointed as Brussels’ Ambassador of Culture in 1999, and received the Graff Award in 1997 and the Louis-Comtois Prize in 2002.
Several key players supported the transformation of this stretch of highway, notably the City of Montreal, the ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l’Électrification des transports, Aéroports de Montréal, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal and the boroughs of Lachine and Sud-Ouest. The project was rigorously assessed through a feasibility study and managed by a decisional and operational committee at every step of the process. Today, it makes a lasting contribution to Montreal's creative heritage.
Upon the recommendation of Montreal’s Bureau d’Art Public, a selection committee was appointed by Louise Déry, Director of the Galerie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal.
> Louise Déry, Director of the Galerie de l’Université du Québec à Montréal
> John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal
> Sandra Chartrand, President of the Fondation Sandra et Alain Bouchard
> Phyllis Lambert, Founding Director Emeritus of the Canadian Centre for Architecture
> Stéphane La Rue, Artist
> Louis Vachon, President and CEO of National Bank of Canada
Sponsors and private partners.
National Bank is grateful to the many sponsors and private partners for their financial support of this important legacy to the city. Through their alliance with Bleu de bleu, they are contributing to raising Montreal’s profile as a cultural metropolis on the world stage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bleu de bleu is fully financed by private partners and local patrons of the arts who believe in raising Montreal’s profile on the world stage through creative endeavours and the development of its tourism and economic sectors.
National Bank has always had its heart set on developing a sense of pride in Montreal’s cultural heritage. With more than 7,000 original works of art, the National Bank Collection is one of the largest corporate art collections in Canada.
With the help of a series of key partners (MTQ, the City of Montreal, boroughs), a study was conducted to determine the feasibility of the project, with a review of constraints, obstacles in place, and solutions to revamp the stretch of highway between Downtown Montreal and the airport.
Bleu de bleu will be in place for approximately five years.
The installation will be dismantled. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal will work to preserve the conceptual aspect and artistic process as it acquires the installation.
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