Tuesday, November 30

MFA Boston in Two Hours

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Kelsey and I had only two short hours to spend touring the new American Art wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This wasn't much time for the art - or the camera - but the space is fantastic, and the Museum's highlights look better than ever.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Photo via Boston Globe)

I worked at the MFA about 5 years ago. The museum has always been big, but back then only had about 17% of it's American Art collection on display. A Museum Guard informed us the MFA now displays more like 30-40%. As their site boasts, 5,000 works of art are on display in over 53 new galleries!

The museum was raising money for the expansion as I left. I was doubtful of the sterile glass buildings they planned to add. Norman Foster & Partners were chosen for the project.

 But I was wrong. The addition was perfect to heighten the original architecture. I had also been doubtful of filling in one of their outdoor courtyards. Instead now that space is active and alive. And like the entire addition, it unifies the museum's disparate additions, making the space both exciting, not too overpowering and re-introducing the building back into it's surroundings.

It was great also to see the entire wing built and curated with it's own collection in mind. Something I'm sure happens quite a bit with all the recent Museum expansions, but sorely needed at the MFA. Paintings that once felt crowded or underwhelming in their surroundings now felt grand. The Sargent painting (above), The Daughters of Edward D. Boit is a good example. It seems entire galleries were created around the experience of certain pieces of art - for example the Pre-Columbian Period room, or the salon-style Colonial room.

And despite the fact that there really is an incredible amount of work on display, it's never really too much too look at. It is all hung at a tempo both exciting and digestible. Even the decorative arts, once set off to the sides of main galleries and usually avoided, were now broken up and placed more closely matched with the paintings or sculptures from their era.

And back to the outdoor courtyard - the Norman Foster addition now includes those outdoor elements and sculpture as transitions between regular galleries.

In my experience with the museum, I've noticed them to cover their weak spots (a lacking contemporary art collection) with stellar small, spotlight exhibitions (Cecily Brown, Antonio Lopez Garcia, etc) in the Foster Gallery and yet (just one of) their prize collections was hung cramped nearby. With the expanded wing, I really had a glimpse into the Museum's strengths and it was exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Great review of the new MFA! We live in Boston and I'm taking all four of my kids there tomorrow--just our second time since the American Wing opened. Your perspective on the space is very interesting and helpful. Thanks!