For almost 40 years, Québec’s major art museum sat 100 meters from a prison. Designed by Charles Baillairgé in 1867, the prison was almost immediately overpopulated, but did not completely end service until the 1970s. By 1991 the museum had annexed the cell blocks and watchtower into gallery space to grow its presence as the world’s leading collector of Québécois art. Among that collection is "L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg," an enormous triptych by Québec abstract expressionist and surrealist Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923–2002). His permanent gallery is one of several stops on a circuit that could start with the dynamic Inuit collection and move through colonial, modernist, figurative, and abstract art, all created by artists from the province.

The museum leans somewhat contemporary, though “Toward Artistic Renewal,” running from October 9, 2014 through March 15, 2015, brings together artists featured in a Montreal intellectual magazine, Le Nigog, published in 1918.

The museum is situated on the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park), at the fringe of the tourist orbit, and is about a half-hour walk from Upper Town.