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.


In This Series

Shinique Smith, "Gesture I: Unraveling," 2014. Choreographed performance.

Performance Art

Shinique Smith: Gesture I: Unraveling
Sunday, September 7, 2014
3:30 pm4:00 pm

Shinique Smith choreographs a dance performance as part of the exhibition “BRIGHT MATTER”

Performance Art

Sarah Crowner: Vidas Perfectas
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
7:00 pm7:15 pm

Dancers from the Boston Ballet activate Sarah Crowner’s painting “Curtains”

Performance Art

Colloquium: A Conversation with Antanas Mockus
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
7:30 pm8:30 pm

Talk with Colombia’s Antanas Mockus as part of the exhibition “Conversation Piece”

Performance Art

Joan Jonas: Reanimation
Thursday, November 13, 2014
7:00 pm8:00 pm

Renowned performance artist Joan Jonas brings “Reanimation” to the MFA

Performance Art

Colloquium: A Conversation With Grant Kester
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
7:30 pm9:00 pm

Talk with academic Grant Kester as part of the exhibition “Conversation Piece”

Performance Art

Shinique Smith: Gesture II: Between two breaths
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
6:30 pm7:00 pm

Shinique Smith choreographs a dance performance as part of the exhibition “BRIGHT MATTER”

Performance Art

Lee Mingwei: Sonic Blossom
Wednesday, March 11, 2015Thursday, April 9, 2015
10:00 am9:45 pm

Opera singers offer the gift of song to visitors at the MFA

Performance Art

Wilmer Wilson IV: Priestess Faust Walk
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
7:00 pm7:30 pm

Wilmer Wilson connects Boston’s streets with the MFA’s collection in this walking performance

Sonya Clark, The Hair Craft Project: Hairstylists with Sonya, 2013

Performance Art

Sonya Clark: The Hair Craft Project: “Hairdressers are my Heroes”
Monday, October 12, 2015
10:00 am4:00 pm

Witness an ancient African hairstyle from a sculpture in the collection re-created by the hands of stylist Kathy Montrevil on the head of artist...

Marilyn performing during her exhibition, sitting at table and looking at glass bowl

Performance Art

Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time
Monday, November 9, 2015Friday, February 19, 2016
10:00 am9:45 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...

Robert Binet, Lake Maligne, 2016. Photo by Liza Voll.

Performance Art

Robert Binet: Lake Maligne
Wednesday, April 6, 2016Sunday, April 10, 2016
2:00 pm7:00 pm

Lake Maligne is a seven-minute dance performance inspired by the exhibition “The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris.”

Artists Tita and Irwan engaging a pair of friends in Boston Common

Performance Art

Tita Salina and Irwan Ahmett: Urban Play—Playing Data
Friday, July 8, 2016
12:30 pm4:00 pm

Jakarta-based artists Tita Salina (b. 1973) and Irwan Ahmett (b. 1975) present Urban Play–Playing Data, a four-part performance and the culmination...



Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.