The Pink Floyd Exhibition Their Mortal Remains Montreal

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains has arrived in Montreal

What to expect from the exhibition of art from the British rock legends, whose relationship with our city is unique, to say the least.

The relationship between Pink Floyd and the city of Montreal is a unique one to say the least. Most infamously, Roger Waters spat in a fan’s direction during the band’s show at a then-unfinished Big O back in July 1977 — the final show of their tour that year, and in front of the biggest crowd in Olympic Stadium history. 

It’s an incident believed to have inspired the creation of the band’s landmark 1979 album The Wall, as Waters was on the plane back to England thinking about that show, and how he felt like a theoretical wall had been built between him and his fans while performing. (Some crowd members had even set off fireworks during that show). Aside from that and multiple other sold-out nights at the Big O in 1994, Pink Floyd also played gigs at the CEPSUM (their debut Montreal show, in 1971), the Autostade and the Forum over the years.

Fast forward to now, and the Pink Floyd exhibition, Their Mortal Remains, has debuted in Montreal at Arsenal Contemporary Art in Griffintown, opening today and running through New Year’s Eve. A press conference for the exhibition was held yesterday morning, featuring Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason (alongside the band’s creative director Aubrey Powell, and the exhibition’s executive director Michael Cohl), followed by a sneak preview of the exhibition itself. 

Pink Floyd creative director Aubrey Powell in the exhibition Their Mortal Remains, in Montreal Nov. 4 to Dec. 31

The exhibition began five years ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, and has since made its way to Rome, Dortmund, Madrid and Los Angeles prior to being shown here. However, Cohl mentioned during the conference that Montreal was the first North American city they wanted to host the exhibition in, as border restrictions earlier in the pandemic forced them to go to L.A. last year instead.

Surrounded by old posters, Montreal newspaper clippings about the band and a huge photo of David Gilmour performing in a Habs jersey, Powell began the press conference by thanking Mason — who initially had doubts about whether there were enough artifacts for the project to use — for his involvement in the exhibition. “Without his archive or his diligence when we started this project, it probably wouldn’t have gotten off the ground,” Powell said, also thanking Waters, Gilmour and the estates of late bandmates Syd Barrett and Richard Wright for giving the project their support.

“Once we started to look into what we had, and what Nick had in his archive, it actually wasn’t difficult to construct this exhibition. What was interesting was the amount that we found. When you travel around the exhibition, you’ll see and experience things you’ve never heard or seen before about Pink Floyd. The idea is not just educational for the uninitiated, but also for the fans to realize Pink Floyd in their complete history.”

Mason apologized to those in attendance for not being able to speak French with them (“I did do French at A-Level, but sadly that was so long ago now. Apart from a little restaurant French, I’m going to have to stick with English,” he joked).

So what makes the link so strong between Pink Floyd and our city? When asked what it meant to have the exhibition in Montreal, Mason replied that its roots actually take hold in France, as he felt French-speaking audiences embraced the band in ways British ones had yet to. 

Pink Floyd Exhibition Montreal
The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains has arrived in Montreal

“For some reason, it really resonated with the French,” he said. “They took us seriously. I think that came over (here). We found an audience that was North American in one way, and French in another. That combination is absolute magic.”

Asked later if Montreal should be proud of having an influence on The Wall’s creation, Mason jokingly argued that “everyone who was present on that day should get a lawyer and indicate that they’re entitled to some small payment from it!”

Those interested in the exhibition can expect to see all kinds of memorabilia and old footage at stations representing each era of the band — going from their humble beginnings and formative influences, to their 1967 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, all the way to their final album, 2014’s The Endless River. Old handwritten lyric sheets, guitars, recording equipment, amplifiers, outfits, and tour posters are on full display, among other trinkets from throughout the band’s illustrious career.

You’ll also be given a headset to wear while in the exhibition, with the audio changing depending on which station you’re nearest to — often playing old interview footage, and shown on television screens with French subtitles.

During the press conference, Mason and the rest of the panel addressed other questions surrounding the band, namely what they had planned next year for the 50th anniversary of their stone-cold classic Dark Side of the Moon album. “A very large birthday cake,” joked Powell.

“It would be churlish of me to give away plans that we have. Yes, we do have plans to obviously recognize and celebrate the occasion. But I’m not really permitted at this stage to give it to you, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise.” ■

For more on The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains, at Arsenal Art Contemporary Montreal (2020 William) from Nov. 4–Dec. 31, and to buy tickets, please click here.

For more Montreal arts coverage, please visit the Arts & Life section.