Quebec City streetscape animated with intricately painted giant lampshades

Currently on Cartier Avenue in Quebec City, 34 giant backlit lampshades, decorated with selected works by Alfred Pellan and Fernand Leduc from the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, are hanging over the street. The installation is an original concept by Lightemotion, the lighting design firm that illuminates building façades and interiors in Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania.

“Our major challenge was to respect the soul of Cartier Avenue, while being bold enough to create a world-class project that would help make Quebec City a true international winter capital,” said François Roupinian, founder and president of Lightemotion.

Aiming to capture the identity of Cartier Avenue, a lighting concept was sought that could express the warmth of a neighbourhood life characterized by a strong community spirit. At the same time, the installation needed to be spectacular enough to be an event in itself.

The idea of hanging lampshades was a perfect fit for those objectives. While the shape of the lighting fixtures gives the avenue the cozy warmth of a residential interior, the large artworks, backlit by LED strips and mounted on 8’ x 5’ circular structures, are an original urban medium for displaying art. The concept of an art gallery floating in space was developed that could inspire many more such projects around the world. The positioning, shape and size of the lampshades are designed to create an environment capable of encouraging movement in the city, while working within Cartier Avenue’s technical and architectural constraints.

The city’s major museum of fine arts, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, helped turn the 34 lampshades into a temporary outdoor art gallery. The museum selected works by Alfred Pellan and Fernand Leduc from its permanent collection and handled artistic direction for their reproduction on the giant lighting fixtures. The choice of the two Québécois painters brings Lightemotion’s concept to its full expression, thanks to the graphic-design elements found in the first artist’s work and Leduc’s signature explorations of light.

While the winter exhibition is designed to be temporary (it is scheduled to continue until the end of March), the installation is flexible. The works mounted on the shades can be easily replaced to feature a different artist or theme every year. That capability suggests a vast range of possibilities for the system of displaying suspended backlit materials, and the existing project includes provisions for the reuse of the lighting fixtures to create new annual shows for the next five years.

The project is part of a master plan proposed by Lightemotion in 2013 to the Office du Tourisme de Québec, which calls for the illumination of several more major arteries. The Société de développement commercial du quartier Montcalm (the neighbourhood’s business improvement association), in collaboration with the municipality, the Office du Tourisme and the Musée des beaux-arts, commissioned Lightemotion to design the master plan’s first lighting component for Cartier Street. More than a simple street installation, the project is a true vehicle for expressing urban identity. Emphasizing the importance of light for northern cities, the Office du Tourisme de Québec plans to use this type of installation to highlight its tourism programs and promote the city internationally as a winter capital.

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