The Ancient Americas galleries present the artistic creativity of more than three dozen cultures from Mexico to Chile prior to European contact in the…
The Art of the Americas department studies, presents, and cares for the paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts made throughout North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean by artists from many cultures and nations. Spanning 3,000 years, from the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica to the modern art capitals of Mexico City and New York, these objects embody the essential human desire to create meaning and beauty through art and craft, a drive shared by artists free and enslaved, trained and self-taught, immigrant and indigenous. Shaped by global contexts of migration, war, commerce, politics, and cultural exchange, the works on view hold many stories and reflect a wide range of ideas about the Americas and Americanness—as a place, an identity, and an aspiration.
Visitors to the Art of the Americas galleries encounter masterworks that span geography, culture, and media. Level LG (Lower Ground) holds our Ancient Americas galleries, which include ceramics and metalwork from over three dozen cultures that flourished across North, Central, and South America before European contact; ship models and the decorative arts and paintings of the earliest European settlers in New England; and our Native North American Art gallery, which illustrates Indigenous experiences of cultural exchange and resilience. Level One features our iconic collection of art made in Boston around the time of the American Revolution, including John Singleton Copley’s 1768 portrait of Paul Revere, who made the famous Sons of Liberty Bowl (1768); a gallery of art from Colonial Latin America, which offers narratives of colonial life both oppressive and transformative; and galleries featuring the arts of the newly formed United States, which raise provocative questions about the role of the arts in constructing ideas of nationhood. Level Two showcases cross-cultural influences in 19th-century decorative arts, sculpture, and painting—including John Singer Sargent’s The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882)—and considers the ways artists grappled with the trauma of the Civil War. Level Three explores 20th-century art, highlighting a range of artistic responses to the modern age across the Americas and reflecting a variety of perspectives from realism to abstraction.
With more than 16,000 objects in our care, we are committed to presenting narratives, creative voices, and perspectives the MFA has historically underrepresented—among them women and LGBTQ+ artists, Black artists and artists of color, self-taught and folk artists, and Indigenous and Latin American artists. This diverse artistic vision challenges assumptions and inspires fresh ways of thinking about the art, culture, and history of the Americas.
As we focus on exploring new themes and challenging conventional accounts of the past, we invite visitors to help us create change by sharing feedback, suggesting new approaches, and bringing outdated interpretive materials to our attention: please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on Instagram @americasmfa.