Leonard Cohen’s Legacy: From Montreal to Copenhagen

Submitted by Britt Krukau on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 17:30

"You want it darker", he once said. I thought: Sometimes dark moments can also brighten up our minds. The yellow larger-than-life poster advertising the exhibition Leonard Cohen: A crack in everything in Copenhagen did a good job of prominently announcing Cohen's retrospective exhibit throughout Denmark's capital. Being a huge Leonard Cohen fan myself, I was excited to get a chance to see the novelist, poet, and singer-songwriter in a multi-disciplinary exhibition at Kunstforeningen GL STRAND and Nikolaj Kunsthal. Having its origins at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), the exhibition brings to life both Leonard Cohen's voice and lyrics, along with commissioned artworks by artists who have been inspired by Cohen’s oeuvre in different ways. After premiering in the fall of 2017 in Montreal - one year after Leonard Cohen's passing - then later presented at the Jewish Museum in New York earlier in 2019, the exhibition was now shown in Europe for the first time. Beginning in October last year, it was supposed to run until April 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the exhibition had been extended until earlier this month of August. The exhibit is now moving back to the Americas and will be shown next at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

From an extensive video projection of live performances, over to a participatory humming experience "I Heard There Was a Secret Chord", and listening to him read poems from his "Book of Longing", this exhibit is the first one entirely devoted to the manifold works of Cohen. It covers decades of music, poetry and reflexions on life. The exhibit's concept and curation appeal to both our visual and auditory senses. The result is a pleasant and moving experience "offering a critical celebration, loving tribute, and quiet commemoration of a vast artistic achievement, and inspiring life". Leonard Cohen is called "an extraordinary poet of sorrow and the human condition, giving voice to what it means to be fully alert to the complexities and desires of both body and soul". Following a turning point in his thinking in the late 1970s, Cohen began to develop the vision that light and joy penetrated through cracks in the soul. This thought was later incorporated into his song "Anthem" in which the lines "There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in" became iconic.

A Montreal Son

Despite having lived in Los Angeles, and having traveled extensively throughout his life, he always returned to his hometown Montreal in order to “renew his neurotic affiliations”. On several occasions Cohen acted as a cultural mediator between francophone Quebec and English-speaking Canada. Leonard Cohen has become an icon, globally but most especially in his hometown. Montrealers continue to be inspired by their famous son. This exhibit is another way to honor him and his legacy – both in Montreal and beyond.




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