MELVIN CHARNEY (1935 - 2012)

Celebrated Canadian artist and architect Melvin Charney was a champion for the public role of the architect and made significant artistic contributions to Canada’s public spaces. Born in 1935 in Montréal, Canada, he studied art under Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montréal as a teenager. He went on to pursue a degree in architecture at McGill University, and received his Masters at Yale University School of Art and Architecture in 1959 where he studied under Willem de Kooning and Walker Evans. Charney returned to Montréal in 1964 where he became one of the founding professors of the architectural department at the Université de Montréal, supervising the graduate program between 1966 and 1970.

Melvin Charney’s work rose to international attention in 1970 with his proposal for the Canadian Pavilion at the Osaka World Fair. Soon afterwards, Charney produced a series of photo-based paintings including Le Trésor de Trois-Rivières (1975) and Les maisons de la rue Sherbrooke (1976), now held in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Centre of Architecture, respectively. One of Charney’s most notable works is the Sculpture Garden at the Canadian Centre of Architecture (CCA) in Montréal. Designed in 1987 and completed in 1989, the garden was created as part of the Québec government’s program to integrate art and architecture into public spaces. Equally acclaimed is his Canadian Tribute to Human Rights sculpture in Ottawa, unveiled by the Dalai Lama in 1990 as the world’s first monument to universal human rights.

Charney’s works have been exhibited in notable public institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; P.S.1, New York; Documenta 7, Kassel Germany; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Kunstverein, Stuttgart; the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul Korea; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the Vancouver Art Gallery, BC.

Appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Québec in 2003 and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres de France in 2006, Melvin Charney was the recipient of many honours including the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas; the Prix Lynch Staunton; fellowship in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada; membership in the Canadian Royal Academy of the Arts; and an Honorary Doctorate from McGill University. Charney represented Canada at the Venice Biennale for Art and Architecture in 1986 and 2000.

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Melvin Charney Allegorical Columns

Allegorical Columns, CCA Garden, Montréal, Québec, 1989
colour pencil and ink on vellum
34.6 x 82.9 inches

Melvin Charney Study 7

Canada Memorial, Green Park, London...Study No. 7, 1993
pastel on laser print of photomontage on paper
17.8 x 24 inches

Melvin Charney Study 8

Canada Memorial, Green Park, London...Study No. 8, 1993
pastel on laser print of photomontage on paper
17.8 x 24 inches

Charney Walking Stiffs
Walking Stiffs... Strutting Through the Embers, 1993
pastel on a laser print of a newspaper photograph mounted on paper, 48" x 84"

Melvin Charney
better if they think they are going to a farm, no. 3, 1983-85
oil pastel on gelatin silver print, 25" x 55"