Official Program of Jean Paul Riopelle’s Centenary Celebrations

2023: Riopelle’s Cultural Theme Year… “One With Nature”

Official video of Riopelle’s Centenary Celebrations

The Riopelle Foundation unveils major projects bringing together a host of renowned partners, the theme of the centenary year as well as the composition of its international committee

MONTREAL, December 8, 2021
– From circus to theatre, classical music, classroom programs and major museum exhibitions: less than a year before the start of the celebrations surrounding the 100
th anniversary of the birth of world-renowned Canadian artist Jean Paul Riopelle, the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation is unveiling the flagship projects of a program of unprecedented magnitude that promises to be rich and highly diversified. Never before seen celebrations for a Canadian visual artist!

Featuring a wide variety of artistic disciplines, the centenary celebrations will give rise to multiple cultural projects, both in Quebec, the artist’s birthplace, and elsewhere in Canada and around the world. A host of prestigious partners will help make these festivities a resounding success around the world.

Five seasons in the colours of Riopelle

With the official start of the celebrations scheduled around October 7, 2022, exactly one year before the 100th anniversary of the birth of the artist, born on October 7, 1923, the program will spread over a full year, starting next fall with the inauguration of a new giant mural in tribute to Riopelle in Downtown Montreal, carried out in collaboration with MU, the City of Montreal and Tourisme Montréal.

The start of the cultural season and school year will also see the deployment of a new educational program, À l’école de Riopelle, an innovative creative space aimed at introducing the artist to all Canadian youth. This program, available for free to all Canadian educational institutions, has received a $600,000 grant through Commemorate Canada, a program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. This grant was announced by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, as part of the media event held at the 7 Fingers headquarters in Montreal, in the presence of dignitaries, patrons and partners of the Riopelle Foundation, as well as representatives of the Canadian cultural network from coast to coast.

In the winter of 2023, the Musée d’art de Joliette will present an original exhibition, under the artistic direction of European curator Irene Campolmi, connecting Riopelle with contemporary artists around the theme of migration, Riopelle having himself traveled to the four corners of the world throughout his life. Later in the season, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) and GSI Musique will present, as part of the Montréal en Lumière Festival, Riopelle Symphonic Experience, a series of immersive multimedia concerts that will combine cutting-edge technologies and original music inspired by the artist’s work.

The spring of 2023 will begin under the sign of literature with the publication of a biographical chronicle recounting Jean Paul Riopelle‘s fascinating life. Titled Beings, Seasons and Territories, the book is the result of extensive research conducted by art historian and author Pierre B. Landry who, through numerous Riopelle archives, photos and interviews, reveals the contours of an unclassifiable character whose Oeuvre transcends time and space, a visionary artist with exceptional talent. In the field of theatre, famous Quebec playwright Robert Lepage will stage a play inspired by Riopelle’s thirst for freedom and independent spirit, a co-production by Ex Machina and Compagnie Jean Duceppe, which will also celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023.

A festive air will take over the summer of 2023 with the presentation of Riopelle Grandeur Nature, an immersive circus show coupled with a multimedia exhibition, an ambitious project reflecting Riopelle’s legendary creative passion and developed by The 7 Fingers. The friendship that has united France and Quebec around Riopelle since the 1940s will also be highlighted through the presentation of the exhibition Riopelle: Studio Scents, at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Southern France, where Riopelle experimented with various artistic techniques in the 1960s. It was also during this period that first emerged his desire to create a foundation, bringing together artists and artisans from all walks of life. Major artworks, some of them on loan from top European museums, will be at the heart of this retrospective, which is intended to be concise and will showcase key works as well as previously unseen pieces. The exhibition, developed in collaboration with curator Yseult Riopelle, will offer a tour of Riopelle’s intense, generous Oeuvre, highlighting the considerable soul-searching engaged in by the artist, from his early days at the École du Meuble in Montreal in 1944 to his very last work, L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, in 1992.

The celebrations will culminate in the fall of 2023 with an international symposium, in collaboration with national and international museums and universities, bringing together art experts from around the world, as well as a major retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the first exhibition of its kind dedicated to the artist by the institution in more than 60 years. This exhibition, like most flagship centenary projects, is expected to tour internationally, so that the rest of the world can celebrate Jean Paul Riopelle’s unique vision.

Throughout the year, the festivities will be divided into three components: Research, Creativity and Knowledge, which brings together educational, academic or applied projects, including the À l’école de Riopelle educational program, the international symposium and an unprecedented research project in oral history and digital storytelling in partnership with Concordia University; Legacy and Heritage, which includes the major legacy project Espace Riopelle, announced on December 2nd in collaboration with the Government of Québec and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) to build a new international setting entirely dedicated to the work of Jean Paul Riopelle and scheduled to open in 2025; and Celebrations, which includes the major cultural events – exhibitions and various artistic performances – announced today.

An abridged calendar as well as details of each major project presented as part of Jean Paul Riopelle’s Centenary Celebrations, as well as quotes from each partner organization, can be accessed by clicking on this link.

A unifying theme

Throughout his life and career, Riopelle drew his inspiration from one of his greatest passions: nature. From white geese to owls, elks and even bullfrogs; from landscapes to vast northern spaces, Riopelle, a visionary and avant-garde artist, has always made way for the richness and splendor of nature and wildlife in his works, including his illustrious series inspired by icebergs.

Willing to place the celebrations of his centenary under a unifying theme, in the image of Riopelle’s invaluable work and legacy, the Riopelle Foundation has chosen, under the creative synergy of Manon Gauthier, Yseult Riopelle and Dr. John R. Porter, C.M., O.Q., C.LH, O.AL, MSRC, Ph.D., a theme that could not be more current: ONE WITH NATURE. It revives the timeless dialogue between Riopelle and this fauna and flora that were for him a source of endless fascination and creative inspiration for more than six decades.

Riopelle himself said: “I don’t take from nature; I move towards nature.” This theme is a reflection of the special and privileged relationship that the artist has maintained throughout his life with this nature that he loved so much. A relationship marked by respect and admiration for the environment and which, nowadays, truly takes on its full meaning.

The iconic work Point de rencontre – Quintette, from 1963, the largest oil on canvas ever produced by Riopelle, has been designated as the official masterpiece of the centenary celebrations. Its evocative title alone – meaning “gathering place” in French – recalls the unifying side of the festivities that will take place in 2022 and 2023. The work, which spent more than 30 years in France before embarking on a stay in Canada, where it is currently exhibited at Rideau Hall in view of Riopelle’s centenary celebrations, is a nod to the migrations that punctuated the artist’s life and bridged France and Canada. Created in five panels, it also recalls the five seasons of the centenary celebrations, whose respective colours were taken directly from the work’s pigments.

Ambassadors across the globe

In order to ensure the global presence of Jean Paul Riopelle’s centenary celebrations, under the co-chairmanship of France Chrétien Desmarais, C.M., and Thomas d’Aquino, C.M., O.O., LL.M., LL.D., the Riopelle Foundation has brought together a prestigious international committee, chaired by Mrs. Chrétien Desmarais, with some of the most illustrious names in the cultural and philanthropic communities in Canada and around the world. This committee has representatives with vast networks covering Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Yseult Riopelle, author of the Catalogue raisonné de Jean Paul Riopelle, co-founder of the Riopelle Foundation and daughter of the artist, will also act as commissioner emerita of the centenary celebrations.

The full composition of the centenary celebrations’ international committee is accessible via this link.

Celebrations throughout Quebec, Canada and around the world

In addition to the major international projects announced today, other projects will be announced in the coming months. The various regions of the province of Quebec will not be left out as various collaborations will allow the general public to discover or rediscover Riopelle’s inexhaustible artistic genius, particularly in Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Mont-Saint-Hilaire and Charlevoix, amongst others, as well as several initiatives exploring the multiple periods of the artist’s career.

Montreal, the artist’s city of birth, from which the vast majority of the projects announced today will emerge, will be at the heart of these celebrations, hosting many world premieres, cultural events and other major legacies during the centenary year.


“The Government of Canada is especially proud to be a partner in the Riopelle centenary celebrations. This man permanently changed society by speaking his truth and dedicating himself to his art. In countries around the world, his paintings tell about vast Canadian spaces, Indigenous cultures and artistic freedom. Riopelle’s reputation and essential works help Canadian art shine across the globe.”

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage

“Jean Paul Riopelle is without a doubt one of the greatest Canadian artists of all times. The celebrations of the centenary of his birth had to be in his image. The Riopelle Foundation is proud to unveil today a rich, diverse program that reflects his character and his art: one with nature. Never in history have we seen celebrations of such magnitude to the glory of a Canadian visual artist. I hope this unique opportunity will allow the general public in Canada and around the world to immerse themselves in the fascinating universe of Riopelle. I would like to thank all our esteemed partners, thanks to whom these festivities already promise to highlight the artist’s Oeuvre, vision and invaluable legacy in Canada and across the globe in 2023.”

Michael J. Audain, O.C., O.B.C., chairman of the board of directors and co-founder of the Riopelle Foundation

“What is particularly of interest to me in Riopelle’s centenary, in addition to developing exhibitions addressing new themes, is to discover the way in which artists from other disciplines such as circus, theater, music and dance, to name a few, look at Riopelle. The gaze and expression of the youth are also elements that seem important to me and that we must highlight.”

Yseult Riopelle, co-founder of the Riopelle Foundation, author of the Catalogue raisonné de Jean Paul Riopelle, daughter of the artist and commissioner emeritus of the centenary celebrations

“Riopelle’s centenary is an excellent opportunity to rediscover Riopelle and highlight his immense contribution to the evolution of art. Whether it was the beginnings of his career in his native Montreal, his links with the Automatistes group in Quebec, his friendship with Surrealist artists in France, the course of meetings and just as much inspiration, Riopelle’s complete work is masterful, characterized by the use of different mediums and whose proliferation is unprecedented. I would like to underline the commitment of the members of the international committee and thank them for joining us in reaffirming Jean Paul Riopelle’s place on the international stage.”

France Chrétien Desmarais, C.M., co-chair of the Jean Paul Riopelle centenary celebrations and chair of the centenary celebrations’ international committee

“Celebrating Riopelle’s centenary is about celebrating Canadian creative genius at its best. It is about recognizing his ardour, his boldness and his avant-garde vision, which is more relevant than it has ever been today. These celebrations will act as a reminder of the indelible mark this cultural giant has left on the history of art, at home and around the world. They will also be the occasion to inspire future generations of artists, as he wished to do through this Foundation. I also wish to salute the extraordinary philanthropy of the Desmarais and Lassonde families and the inspiring leadership of my friend Michael J. Audain, who has made possible the realization of Riopelle’s great dream and thanks to whom we are all gathered today to celebrate the immense legacy of this legendary Canadian artist.”

Thomas d’Aquino, C.M., O.O., LL.M., LL.D., co-chair of the Jean Paul Riopelle centenary celebrations

The official masterpiece of Jean Paul Riopelle’s Centenary Celebrations:
Point de rencontre – Quintette (polyptych), 1963. Oil on canvas, 428 x 564 cm (5 panels).
Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris. Inv. FNAC 90069.
© Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2021). Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière.