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The desires of both body and soul – Leonard Cohen

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal curator, John Zeppetelli and the show’s co-curator Victor Schiffman were deciding how to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary, and how to draw in visitors who might not normally travel to see contemporary art. The curators were even happier when Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) released his 2016 album You Want It Darker at the age of 82. They wanted to celebrate a living legend, an active musician, poet and cultural figure who’d been prominent for five decades.

So Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything was put together with the late singer-songwriter’s blessing, shortly before his death in Nov 2016. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal/MAC exhibition was inaugurated in Nov 2017, a year later. A record number of 315,000 visitors attended the exhibit, one of the most viewed programmes at the MAC!

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
       —Leonard Cohen, 1992

22-storey mural of Leonard Cohen 
in Crescent St Montreal. 
painted on his first yartzeit/anniversary of his death

The Jewish Museum calls him a world renowned novelist, poet and singer-songwriter who inspired generations of writers, musicians and artists. He was an extra­ordinary poet of the imperfection of the human condition, giving voice to what it means to be fully alert to the complexities and desires of both body and soul. For decades, he supplied us with melancholy observations on the state of the human heart, in songs such as Chelsea Hotel, SuzanneBird on a Wire and Hallelujah. With equal parts gravitas and grace, Cohen teased out an inventive and singular language, depicting both an exalted spirituality & an earthly sexuality. His inter­weaving of the sacred and the profane, of mystery & accessibility, was such a compelling combination it became seared into memory. He was truly the high priest of pathos.

A Crack in Everything is the first exhibition entirely devoted to the imagination and legacy of the influential singer-songwriter, man of letters and global icon from Montréal.  Beyond the works that will be created especially for A Crack in Everything, the exhibition also includes innovative multimedia environments in which Cohen’s songs will be covered and performed, based on archived writings, drawings and recordings that he produced over the past half century. And see  a video projection showcasing Cohen’s own drawings and his self-portraits.

There is an multimedia gallery that  includes commissioned works by a range of internat­ional artists who have been inspired by Cohen’s style and recurring themes in his work.  Each of the 18 artists was offered the opportunity to perform & record his own version of Cohen's comeback album I'm Your Man 1988 in a professional recording studio. The album's backing vocals were richly provided by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir from the Westmount congregation in Montreal that Cohen belonged to all his life.

A Crack in Everything went on an international tour from 12th April 2019 until Jan 2021 at The Jewish Museum New York; Kunstforeningen and Nikolaj Kunsthal Copenhagen; and Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco.

Leonard Cohen and the entire band
singing at Rod Laver Arena Melbourne, 2009
Helen was there

On the first anniversary of his death, Montreal poet Leonard Cohen was honoured with a mural on Crescent St Montreal. The 22-storey portrait took two artists, 13 assistants, 240 cans of paint and thousands of hours of work. Part of the reason Cohen gave it his blessing was because the mural was based on a photo his daughter Lorca took in 2008.


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