Les Passages Insolites: An Ephemeral Art Walk Through Québec City

Passages Insolites is a Can’t-Miss Art Walk in Quebec City

Last Updated on December 24, 2023 by Pamela MacNaughtan

Quebec City has a fantastic arts scene, especially in summer when the city transforms the outdoors into a playful wonderland. It’s a time of year filled with festivals and events, street performers that capture the imagination, pop-up hangout spaces, and ephemeral public art installations – hello, Les Passages Insolites!

Les Passages Insolites begins after the summer solstice, in the streets of Petit-Champlain and Place-Royale. It dances through the neighbourhood of Old Port, to the edges of Saint-Roch. It brings together contemporary artists from across Quebec and around the globe, turning the city into an interactive outdoor museum.

This is my favourite part of summer. 

les passages insolites: an interactive contemporary art walk

The art installations of Les Passages Insolites often evoke a sense of awe and wonder, and sometimes a jolt of “wtf?!” – as was the case when I first came face to face with the giant inflated clown’s head squished between two buildings on a dark summer’s night in 2019.

Fin de partie (Nagg et Nell) by Max Streicher, 2019

Then there are the installations that stop you in your tracks, and leave a mark on your soul. For me, it was “A Monument for Mary Ann” by Jean-Robert Drouillard in 2018. A sculpture of a Panise woman (The Panis were Indigenous slaves), the piece was positioned in Place-Royale, facing the bust of King Louis XIV.  

A Monument for Mary Ann” by Jean-Robert Drouillard in 2018
A Monument for Mary Ann” by Jean-Robert Drouillard, 2018

I’m not sure how long I stood there, staring, but I returned several times during the summer and autumn seasons. Four years later, I feel the same heaviness whenever I think about this piece. I wish the city would bring it back and make it a permanent installation.

There are fun and whimsical pieces that makes both children and adults giddy. An alley filled with colourful long foam noddles, a history-themed outdoor arcade, giant pigeons with the Campbell’s soup can, are a few that come to mind.

ai weiwei, musée du bad art, and more!

I love watching the way locals and visitors interact with the various art installations each summer. In Parc de l’UNESCO, I sit at a picnic table with my laptop and notebook, dark shades covering my eyes, shielding my gaze. As I sit there, I watch children and adults admire Sarah Thibault’s L’Empreinte de nos décors (the imprint of our decorations). Stepping closer, running their hands over the golden surface.

Life Jackets by Ai Weiwei, 2022
Life Jackets by Ai Weiwei, 2022

On rue Dalhouse, facing the Royal Batterie (Batterie Royale), it’s impossible to physically touch Ai Weiwei’s Life Jacket, which hangs from the stone walls of the battery and floats on the surface of the water below. Similar to A Monument for Mary Ann, I find myself standing in front of the battery, contemplating the meaning of the life jackets. 

In Place-Royale, the Musée of Bad Art is a must. Escape the heat and take a gander at the quirky pieces of art inside. Some are truly horrible, which makes them a delicious treat for the eyes. It’s something all ages can enjoy, and a good jumping-off point for your journey through Les Passages Insolites.

Musée of Bad Art 2022
Musée of Bad Art 2022
Mythe et Évidence by Mathieu Valade, 2017
Mythe et Évidence by Mathieu Valade, 2017

see les passages insolites in person!

Les Passages Insolites runs from 25 Jun 2022 to 10 Oct 2022, so there is plenty of time to check it out in person while visiting Quebec City this summer/fall. And if you don’t have a trip planned yet, well, now is a good time to make some last-minute travel plans. 😉

Here is the map of the 2022 art installations. You can download this from the Passages website as well, or pick up a paper copy at the Musée of Bad Art in Place-Royale.

Cost: FREE!

Passages Insolites 2022
Passages Insolites 2022