October 10, 2014–March 15, 2015

Conversation Piece

Works that reference domestic objects encourage new types of interaction.

In the 18th century, the term “conversation piece” referred to an informal or intimate group portrait staged in an everyday setting. Today, the phrase commonly refers to an object whose distinctiveness inspires curiosity and launches dialogue.

Contemporary works on view in “Conversation Piece” invite interaction by serving as platforms for dialogue. By taking everyday objects as a starting point for conversation—such as a curtain, television, table, or chairs—these works tease out novelties from the mundane and disrupt viewers’ expectations of what they would find in a museum. Blurring the lines between art and everyday life, each of these works asks viewers to reconsider the world around them through the lens of art. Pointing to individual and collective agency, and how we perform in our everyday lives, this installation highlights art's ability to mobilize us. Included are performance, installation, sculpture, and video by artists Sarah Crowner, Pedro Reyes, María José Arjona, Jaime Davidovich, and Andrew Witkin. An iPhone app by artist and filmmaker Miranda July—the first to be featured as an artwork at the Museum—sends a message not to its intended recipient but to the closest user nearby, who will then deliver it verbally in person. MFA galleries are a hotspot for the app, Somebody™, which means they will be one of the top places to find “somebody” to deliver a message. Together with these works in the exhibition, visitors become the active subjects of a contemporary “conversation piece.”

Performances and Related Events

Sarah Crowner, Curtains (Vidas perfectas)

Painting and design in dialogue with dance. Choreography by Yury Yanowsky performed by Boston Ballet II dancers, courtesy of Boston Ballet.

October 15—7 and 7:30 pm
November 19—7 and 7:30 pm
December 17—2 and 2:30 pm
January 21—7 and 7:30 pm
February 18—7 and 7:30 pm
March 10—2 and 2:30 pm

Pedro Reyes, Colloquium

Round-table discussions organized in collaboration with Harvard University’s Cultural Agents Initiative.

Antanas Mockus, October 22 at 7:30 pm
Grant Kester, December 10 at 7:30 pm

Miranda July, Somebody

iPhone app to inspire new ways to communicate. Visit somebodyapp.com to download.

Above: Miranda July, Somebody, 2014. iPhone app. Created with the support of Miu Miu.

  • Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria (Gallery 265)


With generous support from The Contemporaries.

Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.