Group behind Phi Centre to take over four buildings in Old Montreal



“This is an opportunity to think towards the future and consolidate our exhibition and (media) program in a more expansive space.”

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Phi, the group behind the arts spaces Phi Centre and the Phi Foundation, is set to expand big time with a new $100-million project to create Phi Contemporary, a new arts exhibition centre in Old Montreal. It is set to open in 2026 with construction to begin next year.

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Phi has acquired four buildings and a vacant lot near St-Paul and Bonsecours streets in the east end of Old Montreal, and the organization has an ambitious plan to renovate the buildings to house Phi Contemporary.

Details of the project will be announced at a news conference Friday.

The provincial and federal governments are each pumping in $13.3 million into the project, with the rest of the financing coming from Phi. The buildings all date from the 1800s and they used to house the restaurant Les Filles du Roy and the Auberge Pierre du Calvet.

“This is an opportunity to think towards the future and consolidate our exhibition and (media) program in a more expansive space,” said Phoebe Greenberg, the founder and chief creative officer of Phi. “This is the transformation of these buildings into a network of galleries, including contemporary art and media galleries. So the intention is to consolidate the public presentation of art under one roof.”

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The Phi Foundation will move out of its current home and shift to Phi Contemporary. It has not been determined what will happen with its current building in Old Montreal. The Phi Centre, also in Old Montreal, will continue to exist as it is today with “a fairly robust exhibition program around exhibitions informed by technology and new forms of storytelling,” Greenberg said. “It will be continuing but we will be putting more focus on … research and development.”

All of the live music programming will remain at the Phi Centre.

“(Phi Contemporary) is an extension of the program that we’ve had for the last 15 years,” said Greenberg. “It just allows us a better campus to work in and a more extensive program. The difference with the Phi Centre 10 or 15 years ago is that I was experimenting. Now I’ve had 15 years. … For me the name Phi Contemporary doesn’t suggest a space. It suggests an idea. For me what’s important is we create a platform that’s responsive to what’s happening in the world and remains relevant and important for this generation.”

The Phi Centre and Phi Foundation attracted around 90,000 visitors in 2019 and the plan is to bring in around 135,000 to 145,000 each year at the new space. There is currently a competition on to decide which architecture firm will land the contract to design Phi Contemporary. The winning bid will be unveiled in mid-July.

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