24 OCT 2017: His soulful poetry, distinctive baritone and knack for writing runaway hit songs made Leonard Cohen a global icon, but to many in his hometown of Montreal he's one of their own.

His death last November prompted a spontaneous outpouring of affection, as hundreds of people flocked to his home in the city to lay flowers and fedoras on the doorstep, visit his local haunts or join impromptu singalongs of “Hallelujah.”

Almost a year later, the tributes are more organized and much, much bigger.

For starters, there are the two giant portraits of Cohen that have sprung up on buildings in his hometown.

The first mural, which was painted by artist Kevin Ledo near Cohen's home in the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, is a mere nine storeys high.

The second fedora-clad Cohen likeness looms over the city's downtown, taking up the entire facade of a 20-floor apartment building on Crescent Street.

It is expected to be dedicated in early November as part of a series of tributes marking the one-year anniversary of the singer's death.

The celebrations, which some have dubbed “Cohen Week,” include star-studded concerts and the opening of a museum exhibit inspired by his music, poetry and artwork.

The five-month Cohen exhibit, entitled “Leonard Cohen: A Crack In Everything,” opens at the city's contemporary art museum Nov. 9.

It features a roster of artists from 10 countries who each explore a particular aspect of Cohen's oeuvre through forms as diverse as visual art, music, writing and virtual reality.

The exhibit was conceived long before the artist's death last year at the age of 82, according to museum curator John Zeppetelli.

“I wanted to think of something that was profoundly Montreal, but that also reasonates outside,” he said in an interview.

One filmmaker, Ari Folman, chose to examine Cohen's penchant for writing gloomy songs.

He created a “depression chamber” where one visitor at a time can lay on a table and listen to the downbeat classic “Famous Blue Raincoat,” accompanied by animation.

South African artist Candice Breitz, for her part, focused on the themes of masculinity and fandom by asking 18 male Cohen fans over the age of 65 to sing the artist's 1988 comeback album, “I'm Your Man.”

The first thing visitors to the exhibit will see is Cohen himself, singing in archival concert footage that has been edited and projected on all four of a room's walls.

“It's 50 years of material, so it's quite emotional to see the young Cohen singing 'Suzanne' and the (82-year-old) Cohen, sometimes on a split screen, singing the same song,” Zeppetelli said.

The museum is kicking off its exhibit Nov. 7 with a free outdoor projection show in Montreal's Old Port created by American artist Jenny Holzer.

For five days beginning on the anniversary of his death, Cohen's lyrics and poems will be projected in both English and French onto the side of the massive historic building known as Silo No. 5.

Naturally, the tributes to Cohen also include music.

A star-studded Nov. 6 memorial concert, featuring artists such as Sting, Elvis Costello and Lana Del Rey, is already sold out.

But the contemporary art museum has also organized a series of five concerts to coincide with its exhibit, to be held once per month from November to March.

Each show will feature a Cohen album, sung in its entirety and in the original order by Montreal musicians such as Coeur de pirate and Martha Wainwright.

Earlier this summer, Cohen's son said his father was a deeply private person and probably wouldn't have thought much of the splashy public tributes that have been planned to honour him.

But Adam Cohen said the late singer's dying instructions to his family indicated he had an idea of what was coming.

“'Put me in a pine box next to my mother and father,” Cohen said his father told him.

“'Have a small memorial for close friends and family in Los Angeles and if you want a public event, do it in Montreal.”'

For details on the museum exhibit, visit http://macm.org/en/



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