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Montreal to immortalize Leonard Cohen with mural

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Leonard Cohen. TAKAHIRO KYONO PHOTO

Internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen will be memorialized by his native city with a huge mural to be painted on one of Montreal’s liveliest streets.

The City of Montreal will contribute $200,000 toward the project, which is being undertaken by the non-profit organization MU.

The canvas, on a 20-storey building on Crescent Street, will cover 8,500 square feet. The mural is expected to be completed by September.

Cohen died in Los Angeles in November at age 82. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, an ardent fan of Cohen’s, promised to find a fitting way to commemorate him. Coderre has been consulting with the late artist’s family, which will approve the mural’s design.

The mural will be created by local artist Gene Pendon (also known as Starship) and the American El Mec. Pendon’s past works include the 2011 MU-commissioned mural in tribute to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson at the corner of St. Jacques and des Seigneurs Streets in Little Burgundy.

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MU, which aims to beautify the urban landscape with large-scale public art, has been responsible for almost 80 murals over the past 10 years around the city. The Cohen mural is part of its Montreal’s Great Artists series launched in 2010.

MU also receives funding the Quebec government and a number of public bodies, including Cirque du Soleil. The Cohen project will require additional fundraising.

Among the 14 thus far completed in this series is the mural to writer Mordecai Richler, who died in 2001, unveiled last year on Laurier Street West, near St. Urbain Street.

There has already been criticism that the Cohen mural is not in the most appropriate location. Richler’s and Peterson’s are, for example, in the neighbourhoods where they grew up, critics point out.

Cohen was born and raised in Westmount, and maintained until his death a home in the Plateau Mont Royal, just off St. Laurent Boulevard.

Supporters note that Cohen frequented the bars and restaurants on Crescent, and that the mural will be readily seen by the many thousands of who traverse it daily, both locals and visitors to Montreal.

In any event, another mural in tribute to Cohen is to painted in the Plateau this summer, on the nine-storey Cooper building at 3981 St. Laurent Blvd. It’s one of the projects slated for the annual international public art festival in June.

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