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Turning the Tables
Tabletops and Table Talk

Montreal, Friday, May 19, 2004 — With its beautiful place settings, elegant manners and tightly scripted social rituals, the dining table represents a world of passion, politics and savoir-faire. The exhibition Turning the Tables explores this culturally charged universe of intrigue and emotion through thematic displays of tableware and decorative arts. Organized by the Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City, Turning the Tables will be presented in Montreal at the McCord Museum of Canadian History from May 28, 2004 to April 3, 2005.

Visitors to the show will recognize familiar dining situations and discover the history and significance of mealtime etiquette. The table is presented in an innovative and even theatrical way, using ingenious contemporary settings. In this realm, tabletops are the just the surface we see — they represent the decor, but also habits, gestures and rituals. Table talk exists below the surface — in the form of emotional confrontations and the exercise of power and influence. Unconventional installations, created by Antoine Laprise, evoke this complex sub-current with humour and whimsy.

From Table to Table
At the entrance to the exhibit, a multipurpose table reminds visitors that this particular part of the household was once used for work and play as well as meals. The four tables that follow hold magnificent place settings and accessories that reflect their various uses: the family table, a place for social instruction and learning to “mind your manners!”; the business lunch, where politics, money and power come to dine; the 19th-century middle-class table, where good manners and systemized refinement were in vogue; and the romantic dinner, with fine glassware, candlesticks, and an intimate atmosphere conducive to love and seduction. We end with a modern table presented as a video installation, which urges us to examine our own habits of mealtime interaction.

Traditional presentations of artifacts complement the thematic displays and relate the storied history of the art of the table. Visitors will also learn table trivia — for example, that Catherine de Medicis introduced the fork to France at the table of Henry III, who tucked a napkin in around his collar to protect his starched, fluted ruff.

A Remarkable Collection
The collection of the Musée de la civilisation includes some 7,000 objects related to the art of the table. Turning the Tables is a wonderful opportunity to discover nearly 700 of these. Among the notable pieces on display are a porcelain dinnerware set with a Latona pattern in 22 carat gold leaf (1955) that belonged to Maurice Duplessis, and a six-setting, hand-painted, fine porcelain dinnerware set (1880) given to Quebec lieutenant governor Sir Adolphe Chapleau by American President Rutherford B. Hayes. In addition to these exceptional items, more china, cutlery, tea services, glasses, vases, candlesticks, an egg slicer (Tiffany, 1897), tablecloths, and napkins are also presented. An interactive game challenges you to identify unusual objects from the collection of the Musée de la civilisation.

Amuse-bouche à la McCord
The McCord Museum also houses an impressive collection of Canadian pottery, silverware, glass and fine china. A selection is on display in the Museum’s entrance hall, including an elegant dessert service (1805-10) used by Louis-Joseph Papineau, 19th-century Quebec politician and leader of the Parti patriote. A showcase featuring objects from the Linen Chest complements this display and brings a contemporary perspective to the art of the table.

Activities for Families
The McCord offers a full range of bilingual activities in conjunction with. Starting in June, And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon invites families to test their observation skills in  the exhibition and set a table for a special occasion. From July through September, families can partake in the weekend workshop Raise your Glass and decorate a drinking glass inspired by the treasures on display. All activities are included in the price of admission.

An exhibition designed to whet your appetite for mealtime conversation, decor and design; Turning the Tables is at the McCord Museum (690, Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal) from May 28, 2004 to April 3, 2005.

Images available upon request.

Source and Information: Nike Langevin
Head of Communication
(514) 398-7100, ext. 239

This exhibition was organized by the Musée de la civilisation, Québec.

The McCord wishes to acknowledge the support of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Montreal Arts Council.


Tel.: (514) 398-7100 E-mail : info@mccord.mcgill.ca www.mccord-museum.qc.ca