The MFA is one of the first encyclopedic museums in the US to fully integrate performance art into its collection, exhibitions, and programs. Performance art at the MFA features a range of works by international, national and local artists, and encompasses a spectrum of live and participatory experiences, such as performances that unfold in the Museum’s galleries and engage with its collection, works that form part of cross-media contemporary art exhibitions, and interventions that appear in unexpected spaces inside the Museum or outdoors.
Since the opening of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art in 2011, the MFA has commissioned dozens of performance artworks and organized multi-artist, one-day performance art exhibitions, including Odd Spaces and Onto Objects: Performances by Patty Chang & Jeffery Gibson. These foundational, artist-driven projects questioned the role of performance art in a museum environment and reframed visitor’s experiences of objects in the MFA’s encyclopedic collection.
The MFA has likewise presented a growing number of contemporary exhibitions across media that incorporate performance art into their checklists, including: Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Shinique Smith: BRIGHT MATTER, Conversation Piece, Crafted: Objects in Flux.
Key acquisitions related to performance art include Amalia Pica’s Now Speak!, Pedro Reyes’ Colloquium and Lee Mingwei’s Sonic Blossom. A 2014 presentation of Joan Jonas’ Reanimation, her first major work performed in Boston, lead to the acquisition of a related installation, Ice Drawing Sculpture.
More information and video documentation of select performance artworks can be viewed below through this chronological archive of past presentations.
Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.
Shinique Smith: Gesture I: UnravelingSeptember 7, 2014
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Shinique Smith choreographs a dance performance as part of the exhibition “BRIGHT MATTER”
Sarah Crowner: Vidas PerfectasOctober 15, 2014
7:00 pm – 7:15 pm
Dancers from the Boston Ballet activate Sarah Crowner’s painting “Curtains”
Joan Jonas: ReanimationNovember 13, 2014
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Renowned performance artist Joan Jonas brings “Reanimation” to the MFA
Colloquium: A Conversation With Grant KesterDecember 10, 2014
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Talk with academic Grant Kester as part of the exhibition “Conversation Piece”
Lee Mingwei: Sonic BlossomMarch 11, 2015 – April 9, 2015
10:00 am – 9:45 pm
Opera singers offer the gift of song to visitors at the MFA
Wilmer Wilson IV: Priestess Faust WalkApril 15, 2015
7:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Wilmer Wilson connects Boston’s streets with the MFA’s collection in this walking performance
Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider TimeNovember 9, 2015 – February 19, 2016
10:00 am – 9:45 pm
For her first solo exhibition, Boston-based artist Marilyn Arsem carries out the most durational performance to date of ther four-decade-long career...