Adrienne Clarkson to deliver poetic end to MAC's Leonard Cohen exhibition

The most ambitious, expensive and popular exhibition in the history of Montreal's Musée d'art contemporain, Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, is drawing to a close.

'It's been one of the great professional experiences of my life,' says museum head John Zeppetelli

The exhibition on Leonard Cohen opened in November 2017 and closes April 9. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

Montreal's Musée d'art contemporain (MAC) is saying goodbye to its most ambitious, expensive and popular exhibition ever with a Leonard Cohen-focused symposium featuring former governor general Adrienne Clarkson.

Starting Friday, the Max and Iris Stern International Symposium brings together Cohen experts from around the world. 

It comes just days before Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything closes April 12.

The symposium features an opening address by the former governor general and journalist.

MAC director and chief curator John Zeppetelli said he'd been trying to get Clarkson to visit the museum a long time. She finally came for the Cohen exhibition and stayed for two full days, soaking it in. 

Clarkson's friendship with Cohen spanned half a century, and an early incarnation of it can be seen in CBC archival footage from the 1960s.

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Adrienne Clarkson interviews Leonard Cohen after the publication of his second novel.

In the decades after that interview was recorded, the two became close, and Clarkson made a documentary about Cohen in 1989 called simply Leonard.

Part of it was filmed in his Plateau-Mont-Royal home, with the two sitting at the kitchen table as he assembled an anthology he wanted to call A New Selection.

She suggested it could more accurately be called Everything that isn't Embarrassing, or Saved from a Fire. 

He thought she was joking, and she insisted she wasn't. Stranger Music was released in 1993.

Clarkson's presentation at the symposium is entitled Leonard Cohen As I Knew Him.

"Adrienne, with all of her regal qualities, will deliver a powerful human touch with her 50-year connection [to Cohen]," said Zeppetelli.

The Leonard Cohen exhibition features original works based on Cohen's life and work. Many use sound and video. (Sebastien Roy/MAC)

The symposium continues all day Saturday at Concordia University, with presentations and discussions with Cohen scholars, biographers and museum experts.

Most popular exhibition in MAC's history

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything brought in more than 260,000 visitors, putting the MAC on track to have a record year.

Zeppetelli said he knows all good things come to an end, but he'll still "be suffering intensely" as it closes. He added that he is still hasn't had enough of the exhibition, which opened last November.

"There's just so much, such a wealth of feeling and intelligence to be gleaned from the many rooms in the museum at the moment," he said.

Zeppetelli spent almost three years preparing the exhibition and working with artists from around the world who created unique pieces inspired by the late poet and singer.

"It's been one of the great professional experiences of my life," he said.

The exhibition is presented by CBC/Radio-Canada, which invited visitors to create poetry out of fragments of Cohen's writing. (Sebastien Roy/MAC)

The dark and moody exhibition opened last November when Montreal was commemorating the anniversary of Cohen's death with a series of high-profile events.

Forty artists from 10 countries were brought on board to produce works, drawing inspiration from Cohen's life and art.

The works are reflections on Cohen's legacy which revisit his contribution to the cultural conversation.

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything closes April 12. The MAC's extended hours are available here.