While works by living artists have always been collected by the MFA – Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, and John Singer Sargent were contemporary artists when some of their paintings were acquired – the Department of Contemporary Art was only established formally in the Museum’s centennial year, 1971. Since 1992, it has focused on art created since 1955 and today the collection contains more than 1500 works from across the globe. All media are represented: painting, sculpture, photography, works on paper, installation, decorative arts, craft, design and film and video. The MFA is also one of the first encyclopedic museums in the United States to fully integrate performance art into its collections, exhibitions and programs. Thousands more works dating since 1955 are held in the Museum’s other departments including Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Art of the Americas, Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa, and Textiles and Fashion Arts.
Largely installed in the galleries of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, the latter dedicated in September 2011 to exhibit the works of today, the displays highlight an exciting diversity of internationally recognized artists including: El Anatsui, Lynda Benglis, Kathy Butterly, John Cederquist, Tara Donovan, Mona Hatoum, Jenny Holzer, Alex Katz, Anish Kapoor, Ellsworth Kelly, Glenn Ligon, Josiah McElheny, Ken Price, Martin Puryear, Doris Salcedo, Kara Walker, Andy Warhol, Rachel Whiteread, and Fred Wilson among many others.
The gallery installations change frequently so there is always something new to see and reason to return. Of the eight galleries in the Linde Family Wing, one is dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts; another to film, video and new media. Large-scale installations are exhibited in the Wing’s soaring Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria. Also located in the Linde Family Wing is the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery, the Museum’s main space for special exhibitions of contemporary art. Our performance art program encompasses a wide array of live interactive experiences throughout the Museum and on our campus.
Above: El Anatsui, Black River, 2009. Aluminum, bottle caps and copper wire. Towles Fund for Contemporary Art, Robert L. Beal and Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Acquisition Fund, Henry and Lois Foster Contemporary Purchase Fund, Frank B. Bemis Fund, and funds donated by the Vance Wall Foundation. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY. Photography © Tony Rinaldo.