Cultural Revamp in Montreal

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French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier

Montreal may be better known for snow than style, but two new openings are indicative of the city's transformation into a serious cultural contender. The most eye-catching arrival is "From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk," a first-of-its-kind retrospective of the work of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. On display through Oct. 2 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the show traces Gaultier's 35-year career, from his nautical-inspired collections in the 1980s to his costumes for Madonna and Kylie Minogue. The 59-year-old, who still turns out three annual collections, says the show is less a retrospective and more "an installation, an enchanted garden."

There's lots of enchantment in Montreal these days. Its Latin Quarter is midway through an arty revamp, anchored by the decade-in-development Quartier des Spectacles, a district that is already home to more than 80 cultural venues, including landmarks like La Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, home of the annual jazz fest. The long-awaited Adresse Symphonique meanwhile opens in September. The vast hall is the new home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the first public-private cultural partnership in Quebec. Of course, classical music is a long way from Gaultier's bad-boy design. But the blend of high and pop culture neatly captures Montreal's arty new spirit. Expect more creative heat to come on those winter nights.