February 24 2020


An initiative of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Conseil des arts de Montréal

Nayla Dabaji. Photo: Kassim Dabaji


Montréal, February 24, 2020 – The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), in collaboration with the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM), is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Impressions residency: artist Nayla Dabaji. This residency invites a visual artist representing Montreal’s cultural diversity to carry out a research and creation project by taking a unique and original look at the Museum’s collections.

From March to April 2020, this Lebanese-born artist will explore the MMFA's collections of contemporary Quebec and Canadian art, Middle Eastern art, Mediterranean archeology, and photography. Nayla Dabaji works mainly with video and installations. In her project Migrer le Musée [The Museum in Migration], she will address the concepts of migration and journeys while focusing on the MMFA’s works that are anonymous or “migrant” either because they deal with the theme of journeys or because they have gone on a journey themselves. 

After selecting works for which the MMFA either lacks or has incomplete information, she will then make assumptions about or fictionalize connections between them in order to fill in the gaps. In a video piece, the artist will bring them back to life or create a different framework for their existence. As she explained, “I am interested in how the experience of the journey is translated and expressed in these works. Like a solitary migratory bird that flees, flies, falls, and rises again, I will find avenues of research through this project that will let me take stock of and shape my experience through visual narratives.”

*The artist's biography can be found in the appendix.

Jury member Sylvie Lacerte, Curator of Quebec and Canadian Contemporary Art at the MMFA, said that Nayla Dabaji’s project “is perfectly aligned with the MMFA's mission to be open to all cultures, both ancient and contemporary. In her quest to define the museum, Nayla is analyzing this institution ‘as a space for reflection and a journey through time’.”

Nayla believes that visiting a museum is indeed like going on a journey and makes a museum her first stop in any new city travels to. She added, “As an artist, browsing the collection of the MMFA will be like taking a journey through Montreal, the city where I chose to settle and the city I once was a stranger to but now am familiar with. Creating a work that echoes this idea is fascinating, and I thank the MMFA and the CAM for this wonderful opportunity.”

The Impressions residency 
This residency is aimed at professional artists who have core training and whose abilities have been recognized by their peers. For eight weeks, artists receive a salary while researching, reflecting on, creating, interpreting or publishing works and devote themselves primarily to practising their art.

“We continue to be delighted with our alliance with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in connection with the Impressions residency program. By opening the Museum’s doors and collection to an artist from a diverse background, we are helping to develop and inspire talent in the visual arts,” said Nathalie Maillé, Executive Director of the Conseil des arts de Montréal.

Nathalie Bondil, the Museum’s Director General and Chief Curator, had this to say: “Since it was established by the Conseil des arts de Montréal and the MMFA, the Impressions residency pilot project has served as a springboard for a number of emerging artists from Montreal’s culturally diverse, First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities: winners Leila Zelli (2018-2019), Jobena Petonoquot (2017-2018), Ari Bayuaji (2016-2017), Pansee Atta (2015-2016), Naghmeh Sharifi (2014-2015) and Karen Tam (2013-2014).”

With the financial participation of the MMFA and the CAM, the artist in residence will receive a $7,000 grant. Every year, an artist is selected by an ad hoc jury. The winner will be given the opportunity to exhibit the results of their work on the mezzanine of the Maison du Conseil des arts de Montréal.

Public Partners: Conseil des arts de Montréal

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Downloadhigh-resolution images here
Press Room:mbam.qc.ca/en/press-room


Maude N. Béland
Media Relations Officer | MMFA
T. 514-285-1600, ext. 205
C. 514-886-8328

Patricia Lachance
Media Relations Officer | MMFA
T. 514-285-1600, ext. 315
C. 514-235-2044

About the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Drawing over 1 million visitors annually, the MMFA is one of the most visited museums in Canada and North America. Its highly original temporary exhibitions combine various artistic disciplines – fine arts, music, film, fashion and design – and are exported to the four corners of the world. Its rich encyclopedic collection, displayed in its five pavilions, includes international art, arts of One World, decorative arts and design, and Quebec and Canadian art. The Museum has seen exceptional growth in recent years with the addition of two new pavilions and one new wing: the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion in 2011, the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace in 2016, and the Stephan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery Wing for the Arts of One World in 2019. The MMFA complex also includes Bourgie Hall, a 460-seat concert hall, as well as an auditorium and a movie theatre. The MMFA is one of Canada’s leading publishers of art books in French and English, which are distributed internationally. The Museum also houses the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy, the largest educational complex in a North American art museum, enabling the MMFA to offer innovative educational, wellness and art therapy programmes. mbam.qc.ca

About the Conseil des arts de Montréal
A dynamic partner of professional artistic creation in Montreal, the Conseil des arts de Montréal identifies, accompanies, supports and recognizes excellence in artistic creation, production and dissemination. It encourages openness, discovery and audacity at the heart of Montreal's artistic landscape. Since 1956, the Conseil des arts de Montréal has contributed through its structuring actions to the development of “Montréal, cultural metropolis.” artsmontreal.org




Born in Beirut, Nayla Dabaji lives and works in Montreal. She studied visual arts in Lebanon and media arts in Quebec. Her projects incorporate several practices such as photography, installation art, video art, performative art and writing. Her video works have been presented at the L’Imagier Art Centre (Gatineau, 2019), Dazibao (Montreal, 2017), as well as many festivals such as Les Instants Vidéo (Marseille, 2019, 2015, 2014), Les Percéides (Percé, 2018), Les Rendez-vous Québec cinéma (Montréal, 2017), Stuttgarter Filmwinter (Stuttgart, 2015) and Antimatter [media art] (Victoria, 2015). 

Along with her individual practice, she also works as a duo with Ziad Bitar. Their visual arts projects have been exhibited at many galleries, institutions and arts centres, such as Espace libre (Bienne, 2016), VU Photo (Québec City, 2013), Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne, 2012), Art Sonje Center (Seoul, 2011) and Townhouse Gallery (Cairo, 2009). 



Nayla Dabaji's projects focus on migration (journeys), temporality (memory), and how mobility (flight/escape) and information gaps destabilize and transform our daily lives or our perceptions. She creates her work in different countries and draws inspiration from these different places as well as those she has visited and lived in, such as Cameroon, France, Lebanon and Canada. The juxtaposition of these experiences/geographies is an important aspect in her process. 

Her work is presented in the form of installations, where traces of her research and fragments of her experiences – such as photographs, drawings and videos – represent real or imagined landscapes and stories. In recent years, she has based her video work on texts, images and sounds that she decontextualizes and reuses to highlight their fictional elements. These visual narratives can be read on many levels but also reveal divergences, which give weight to failings such as the unreliability of a mediatized event or the impossibility of fully representing an experience.