The Clock Arrives in Montreal

Christian Marclay, The Clock (2010), single channel video, duration: 24 hours. Purchased 2011 with the generous support of Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, and Carol and Morton Rapp, Toronto. Jointly owned by the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston © the artist. Courtesy White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MACM) is bracing for large crowds with the opening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, perhaps one of the most famous works of contemporary art in the world.

“The success of The Clock is a testament to the quality of the work,” says MACM’s Associate Curator, François LeTourneux. “Pretty much everyone who has seen it has been fighting to show it; it’s great."

“We’re really lucky that we could partner with the NGC to present it. It has been to Toronto; it’s been to Winnipeg—we’re thrilled to have it here, and I’m sure many more galleries will want to present it in the years to come; it’s such a huge achievement.” 

Marclay’s internationally-acclaimed ode to time and cinema was unveiled in 2010 at White Cube in London, England. The artist was awarded a Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale and, since then, several art museums and galleries around the world have purchased editions of the work. The National Gallery of Canada’s edition is shared jointly with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—an acquisition made possible for the Gallery through the financial support of Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, and Carol and Morton Rapp of Toronto.

The National Gallery’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Jonathan Shaughnessy, first saw The Clock when it debuted internationally at White Cube in 2010. There was already a great deal of hype around the piece. “It didn’t take me long to realize there’s something deeply special about this work of art,” he says. “It’s one of those iconic works that captures the imagination like very few can.”

The Clock is made up of thousands of film clips and visual fragments referencing time. Wristwatches, clocktowers, sundials, alarm clocks, countdowns or snatches of dialogue mark every minute of the 24-hour day. The Clock matches the exact time of day that it is being viewed. 

“It’s a 24-hour video synched to real time,” Shaughnessy says. “It’s amazingly edited, and the amount of work that is put into creating flow within completely fragmented narratives is extraordinary. I think that’s part of the hook: it’s very watchable, yet one watches in complete knowledge that there is no plot, that no narrative can hope to reach fruition, and that everything is discontinuous.”

The Clock was several years in the making as the artist and his assistants diligently culled clips from a century of cinema. It is the first work by Christian Marclay to be acquired by the National Gallery—a work that has been described as nothing less than a contemporary masterpiece.

The Clock is on view at the MACM from 22 February until 20 April, 2014. The MACM has organized five special 24-hour viewings, beginning with opening night on 21 February. Click here for details.

With files from Peter Zimonjic

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