Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
|Iranian Photography: Bahman Jalali and Gohar Dashti||January 11–July 12, 2020|
|Black Histories, Black Futures||January 20, 2020–June 20, 2021|
|Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera||February 8–June 21, 2020|
|Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper||February 8–June 21, 2020|
|Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits||March 1–May 25, 2020|
|Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation||April 5–August 2, 2020|
|Cy Twombly: Making Past Present||July 18–October 24, 2020|
* Bolded exhibitions are on view in the Museum's Ann and Graham Gund Gallery.
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Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
Iranian Photography: Bahman Jalali and Gohar Dashti
Gallery next to MFA Signature Shop
January 11–July 12, 2020
This exhibition presents approximately 20 works by two photographers, Bahman Jalali (1944–2010) and Gohar Dashti (born 1980), bound together by their shared Iranian heritage, their teacher-student relationship and their commitment to infusing documentary photography with the power of imagination. Jalali was a pioneering figure in 20th-century Iranian photography, widely known for documenting the Iranian Revolution (1978–79), the Iran-Iraq war (1980–89) and their aftermath. Produced late in his career, the evocative Image of Imagination series featured in this exhibition marks his departure from the rigorous fidelity of documentary photography. As an instructor at Tehran University of Art, Jalali mentored many artists, including Dashti, who studied with him in the 2000s. Dashti’s work, represented here by her recent Home series, records the contemporary world while introducing unexpected perspectives and staged elements that blur the line between fiction and reality. Though visually dissimilar, Jalali and Dashti’s works both reflect on the political, social and cultural changes that the artists have witnessed, while also recording lives and stories too often overlooked. All of the works in the exhibition are on loan from a private collection.
Black Histories, Black Futures
Carol Vance Wall Rotunda, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center, Lower Hemicycle
January 20, 2020–June 20, 2021
Curated by young scholars as part of the MFA’s new partnership with local youth empowerment organizations, this exhibition features 20th-century paintings and works on paper by artists of color and is a centerpiece of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration in 2020. In the summer of 2019, six fellows from Becoming a Man (BAM), The BASE, and the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program managed by EdVestors participated in a series of workshops designed to build curatorial skills such as close looking, research methods, label writing, and gallery installation. The teen curators were mentored by Layla Bermeo, the MFA’s Kristin and Roger Servison Associate Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, and supported by peers from the MFA's Teen Arts Council (TAC), who contributed to the exhibition's interpretation and programming. The culminating project features approximately 50 works, organized into four thematic sections that explore and celebrate Black histories, experiences and self-representations. "Ubuntu: I Am Because You Are" presents images of community life and leisure activities, while "Welcome to the City" focuses on paintings of urban scenes in both figurative and abstract styles. Presented on two sides of the Lower Hemicycle, “Normality Facing Adversity” and “Smile in the Dark” examine photographs and works on paper showing dignified Black people and families, from before and after the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition features well-known artists including Archibald Motley, Norman Lewis, James Van Der Zee and Dawoud Bey, in addition to highlighting painters with connections to Boston, such as Loïs Mailou Jones and Allan Rohan Crite, and bringing fresh attention to rarely shown works by artists such as Eldzier Cortor, Maria Auxiliadora de Silva and Richard Yarde.
Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera
Herb Ritts Gallery
February 8–June 21, 2020
Elsa Dorfman (born 1937) is a beloved Cambridge, Massachusetts photographer and local personality known for her large-format commissioned Polaroid portraits. This exhibition is the first to explore autobiography as a theme in Dorfman’s work, bringing together a selection of 20x24 Polaroid self-portraits made since 1980. The photographs depict Dorfman both on her own and with family and friends. They reveal the disarming informality of her approach, as well as her warm spirit and her delight in the magic of the Polaroid process. The exhibition also features a group of early black-and-white photographs from Dorfman’s landmark 1974 photobook Elsa’s Housebook: A Woman’s Photojournal, which celebrates the circle of friends who visited her at home in the 1960s and 1970s, including poet Allen Ginsberg along with a host of other Beat Generation writers, as well as her budding relationship with future husband, lawyer Harvey Silverglate. The photographs on view are mostly drawn from Dorfman’s personal archive. The exhibition is presented concurrently with Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits and Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper.
Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper
Clementine Brown Gallery
February 8–June 21, 2020
This exhibition, on view concurrently with Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits and Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera, presents approximately 60 contemporary self-portraits on paper, primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection. They include works by major artists known particularly for their focus on self-portraiture—such as Käthe Kollwitz and Jim Dine—as well as younger artists whose conceptual frameworks expand the definition of the genre. Highlights include Booster (1967), a monumental lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg that uses x-rays of the artist’s own body; an untitled lithograph (1990) by Kiki Smith in which Xerox transfers of the artist’s tangled hair become a Pollock-like abstraction; and Invisible (2004) by Kyung Sook Koo, made from impressions of the artist’s body covered in bubble wrap. Other works not to be missed include Willie Cole’s Man Spirit Mask (1991), a metaphorical triptych that uses the symbol of the household iron to suggest domestic servitude, the branding of slaves and the shape of African masks; and the newly acquired print series Runaways (1993) by Glenn Ligon, which mimics the tone of 19th-century broadsides advertising runaway slaves, but substitutes laconic descriptions of Ligon written by his friends, forming a kind of composite self-portrait. Also recently acquired is Balding (2017), a set of 21 meticulously rendered drawings by Cobi Moules, in which the artist—who is transitioning from female to male—uses extraordinary candor and humor to explore the many possibilities that await his future self. Moules is one of several local artists included in the exhibition, alongside Allan Rohan Crite, Jess Dugan, Michael Mazur and John Wilson.
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
March 1–May 25, 2020
Lucian Freud: The Self Portraits is the first exhibition to concentrate on the celebrated British painter’s self-portraits, one of the most sustained achievements of the artist’s career. Executed over almost seven decades, they chart a trajectory through Freud’s development as a painter: from his early, linear and graphic works to the fleshier painterly style that became the hallmark of his later output. The self-portraits also chart a life’s journey, from young boy to old man, in what was effectively an ongoing study of the process of aging and the changes it inflicted on his own physical form. Few other artists in the 20th century have portrayed themselves with such consistency. Freud’s self-portraits place him in a long lineage of artists, from Dürer and Rembrandt onward, who made self-portraiture a recurring feature of their practice. Organized in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits assembles approximately 40 paintings, prints and drawings spanning the artist’s entire career. The MFA's presentation is the first exhibition dedicated to Freud’s work in Boston. Supported by Davis and Carol Noble. Additional support from the Barbara Jane Anderson Fund, the Alexander M. Levine and Dr. Rosemarie D. Bria-Levine Exhibition Fund, and an Anonymous Funder.
Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
April 5–August 2, 2020
The post-graffiti moment in 1980s New York City marked the transition of street art from city walls and subway trains onto canvas and into the art world. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) became the galvanizing, iconic frontrunner of this transformational and insurgent movement in contemporary American art, which resulted in an unprecedented fusion of creative energies that defied longstanding racial divisions. Writing the Future features his works in painting, sculpture, drawing, video, music and fashion, alongside works by his contemporaries—and sometimes collaborators—A-One, ERO, Fab Five Freddy, Futura, Keith Haring, Kool Koor, LA2, Lady Pink, Lee, Rammellzee and Toxic. Throughout the 1980s, these artists fueled new directions in fine art, design and music, driving the now-global popularity of hip-hop culture. The exhibition illuminates how this generation’s subversive abstractions of both visual and verbal language—including neo-expressionism, freestyle sampling and wildstyle lettering—rocketed their creative voices onto the main stages of international art and music. Writing the Future will be the first major exhibition to contextualize Basquiat’s work in relation to his peers associated with hip-hop culture. It also marks the first time Basquiat’s extensive, robust and reflective portraiture of his Black and Latinx friends and fellow artists has been given prominence in scholarship on his oeuvre. Notable among those works is the much-revered painting Hollywood Africans (1983, Whitney Museum of American Art), which lionizes Toxic and Rammellzee, the legendary artist/philosopher who is also represented with multiple works in Writing the Future, and with whom Basquiat created the prophetic, influential, and talismanic rap song “Beat Bop.” The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications, edited by co-curators Liz Munsell, the MFA’s Lorraine and Alan Bressler Curator of Contemporary Art, and writer and musician Greg Tate. Sponsored by Bank of America.
Cy Twombly: Making Past Present
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (multiple galleries)
July 18–October 24, 2020
Throughout the course of his career, Cy Twombly (1928–2011) produced thousands of artworks inspired in large part by art and literature from the classical world, which he encountered through his travels, reading and collecting. This exhibition is the first in the U.S. to explore the artist’s sustained engagement with antiquity and the first to focus on Twombly—an alumnus of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University—in Boston. Cy Twombly: Making Past Present brings together more than 60 works by Twombly (including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and prints) with ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern art from the MFA’s collection, as well as a selection from the artist’s personal collection of ancient sculptures, on public display for the first time. Organized into seven galleries, the exhibition explores the influence of classical cultures on Twombly’s artistic vision through various themes: the integration of language, the significance of place and journey, mythology, poetry, war and memorials. Highlights of works by Twombly include several pieces that have never been seen in the U.S. before, such as the large-scale triptych Thyrsis (1977), on loan from the Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
through December 14, 2019
This exhibition presents 150 highlights from the Howard Greenberg Collection of Photographs, celebrating photography as an art form as well as a social, cultural and political force. Carefully assembled over more than three decades by former photographer and gallery dealer Howard Greenberg, the collection encompasses 446 works by 191 artists and was acquired by the MFA in 2018. Viewpoints showcases the breadth of these holdings, from European modernist masterpieces of the 1920s and ’30s to socially conscious works such as powerful visual testimonies of Depression-era America, politically engaged street photography, wartime photojournalism and compelling depictions of African American life from the 1930s through the Civil Rights movement. Beginning with a selection of Greenberg’s particular favorites, including Consuelo Kanaga’s Young Girl in Profile (1948), the photographs in the exhibition are divided into seven themes: Capturing Modernism; Picturing the City; Conflicts and Crises; Bearing Witness; Fleeting Moments; Defining Portraits; and Music, Fashion and Celebrity. In addition to exploring the historical importance of the photographs on view, Viewpoints also highlights the material properties of these exceptional prints—in many cases, the earliest, first-ever or only print ever made, or the best existing example. Among the many photographers represented in the exhibition are Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Consuelo Kanaga, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Edward Steichen and Weegee.
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
through January 20, 2020
Between 2500 B.C.E. and 300 C.E., a series of kingdoms flourished in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, a region known in antiquity as Kush and by modern scholars as Nubia. Ruling from the capitals of Kerma (2400–1550 B.C.E.), Napata (800–300 B.C.E.) and Meroe (300 B.C.E.–300 C.E.), Nubian kings and queens controlled vast empires and trade networks that reached across the Mediterranean and far into Africa, rivaling—and even for a brief time conquering—their more famous neighbors, the Egyptians. The Nubians left behind the remains of cities, temples, palaces and pyramids, and their artists and craftspeople produced magnificent jewelry, pottery, metalwork, furniture and sculpture. Yet today many people are unaware that these powerful African civilizations even existed. This exhibition presents more than 400 objects from the MFA’s vast collection of Nubian art—the largest and most important outside of Sudan—mostly gathered during the groundbreaking excavations carried out by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition during the first half of the 20th century. Among the highlights are exquisite jewels once worn by Nubia’s queens; the nearly life-sized statue of Senkamanisken from the sacred mountain of Gebel Barkal; the army of funerary figurines from the tomb of King Taharqa; the gold and silver treasure of King Aspelta; and the stele of King Tanyidamani, bearing the longest-known inscription in the still-untranslated Meroitic language and script. Additionally, precious objects imported from Egypt and the Mediterranean world illustrate Nubia’s role as a leader in foreign commerce. Along with introducing visitors to the breadth, innovation and technical mastery of Nubian art, the exhibition explores the ways in which Nubia’s story has been told over time and from different perspectives, as well as how it continues to resonate today. Sponsored by Bank of America. Generously supported by the Florence E. and Horace L. Mayer Fund.
Clementine Brown Gallery
through January 20, 2020
Luminous and often haunting, Kay Nielsen’s interpretations of classic fairy tales are among the most celebrated book illustrations of the 20th century. Showcasing more than 45 dramatic watercolors, drawings and illustrated books from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection, this exhibition celebrates the Danish artist’s significant achievements in illustration while highlighting some of his work in theater design and animation. Born in Copenhagen and educated in Paris, Nielsen (1886–1957) gained international recognition for his exquisite gift book illustrations—most notably for his masterpiece East of the Sun, West of the Moon (1914), a collection of Norwegian fairy tales. In contrast to some of his contemporaries, Nielsen often focused on the melancholic or dramatic elements of tales, creating memorable visual sequences reflecting on themes of love, passion, loss and death. “Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection” is supported by the Cordover Exhibition Fund, and the Benjamin A. Trustman and Julia M. Trustman Fund. Hotel Partner is the Mandarin Oriental, Boston.
Herb Ritts Gallery
through January 20, 2020
This exhibition of approximately 35 works explores five photographers’ shared fascination with magic, fantasy and illusion. While different in his or her approach, each artist uses meticulously staged imagery to create fantastical scenes as a means of grappling with contemporary social issues—from the role of women in the Middle East, to the passage from childhood to adolescence, to global warming and climate change. Paolo Ventura (Italian, born 1968) employs the narrative framework of children’s picture books and stands in as the protagonist in his recent series Short Stories, created in collaboration with his wife and young son. Shadi Ghadirian (Iranian, born 1974) questions preconceived ideas regarding female identity and agency in the Muslim world through works like her Miss Butterfly. The series of black-and-white photographs is based on an early Persian folk tale with universal messages of hope, strength and resilience. Intimate portraits by Hellen van Meene (Dutch, born 1972) often focus on adolescent girls on the cusp of adulthood, posed in Vermeer-like natural light. Inspired by fairy tales such as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, as well as Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Van Meene’s photographs seek to capture the rich interior lives of her sitters, while also suggesting some of the anxiety and confusion commonly experienced during teenage years. Nicholas Kahn (American, born 1964) and Richard Selesnick (British, born 1964) have been collaborators for more than three decades, creating extravagant costume dramas, concocting detailed quasi-historical sagas and fabricating elaborate props for their cinematic visions. Their series Eisbergfreistadt (“Iceberg Free State”), inspired by concerns surrounding global warming, strikes a delicate balance between a fictional narrative and a seemingly “straight” style of documentary photography. Supported by the Shelly and Michael Kassen Fund.
Henry and Lois Foster Gallery
through February 23, 2020
One of Boston’s most compelling artists, Hyman Bloom (1913-2009) combined the physical and the spiritual in his paintings of human corpses, anatomical studies and archeological excavations made during the 1940s and 1950s. This exhibition of approximately 70 paintings and drawings from public and private collections—including the Whitney Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Addison Gallery of American Art—explores the artist’s career as well as his constant interest in the body and the meaning of “still life.” These gripping and beautiful paintings are characterized by Bloom’s thick application of paint in jewel-like tones and his uncompromising observation of the lifeless human form, both as mortal flesh and as an incubator for new life. By their very nature, these challenging subjects invite consideration of the life, death and rebirth of Bloom’s artistic reputation, as well as the growing divide between figuration and abstraction at this defining moment of American art. Bloom’s Judaism, his deep interest in eastern religions, and his belief in reincarnation and regeneration add depth to the study of these paintings, which remain little known to many. Supported by the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates Exhibition Endowment Fund.
Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery
through February, 23, 2020
Stretching nearly 20 feet wide by 8 feet high, Mural (1943) is the largest painting Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) ever made, and it proved a breakthrough for the artist. Peggy Guggenheim commissioned it for the foyer of her Manhattan townhouse; in 1951, she donated the work to the University of Iowa. Today it is recognized as one of the pivotal achievements of Pollock’s career, the moment when he left figuration behind, expanded the scale of his work, and started to develop his signature drip technique. “I took one look at it,” the critic Clement Greenberg later said, “and I knew Jackson was the greatest painter this country had produced.” The MFA has commissioned German painter Katharina Grosse (born 1961) to respond to Pollock’s Mural. Known for her large-scale, site-related painterly installations, Grosse is one of the most important painters of her generation. Since the late 1990s, she has been using an industrial paint-sprayer to apply prismatic swaths of color to a variety of surfaces, eroding the distinction between two and three dimensions to create immersive visual experiences. The unprecedented pairing of Pollock and Grosse’s work demonstrates how the artists have respectively transformed painting through their innovative techniques and approaches to color on a massive scale.
Bernard and Barbara Stern Shapiro Gallery
through March 8, 2020
Collecting Stories: A Mid-Century Experiment examines a short-lived moment in the Museum’s history, a time when it was aligned with a new interest among art museums in the U.S. to collect and display work by living American artists. Beginning in 1941, the MFA launched a trial initiative to collect contemporary American art, establishing a “Provisional Collection” in which paintings would be held until they stood the “test of time” and would enter the permanent collection. By 1957, the last year of the venture, more than 150 acquisitions of contemporary American art had been made. This exhibition features approximately 45 paintings and works on paper from the MFA’s holdings that were originally acquired as part of the Provisional Collection, many of which are on view for the first time in decades. Ranging widely in style and genre—from landscapes and still lifes to social realist scenes and works that experiment with unusual materials and techniques—these paintings often provide a counterpoint to art historical narratives that now frame the 1940s and 1950s as a period dominated by Abstract Expressionism. Featured artists include Isabel Bishop, Hyman Bloom, Lyonel Feininger, Marsden Hartley, Fannie Louise Hillsmith, Joseph Hirsch, Edward Melcarth, Florine Stettheimer and Andrew Wyeth—some familiar to museumgoers and others less known, even among curators and art historians. The show explores issues of legacy and taste, probing how artists were perceived in their own time and beyond, as well as the role that museums play in the development of artists’ reputations and canonical art histories. This is the second in a series of three exhibitions funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that will use understudied works from the MFA’s collection to address critical themes in American art and the formation of modern American identities.
Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery
through March 29, 2020
In the early 20th century, Boston boasted one of the most active and influential jewelry-making and metalworking communities in the nation. This is the first exhibition exclusively dedicated to the exemplary works of this vibrant and interwoven group of craftspeople—many of them women, who were offered unprecedented opportunities in education, training and patronage. Sharing a belief in the ideals of the international Arts and Crafts philosophy, the tight-knit community favored an aesthetic noted for uniting design and handcraftsmanship as well as for its use of color and precious materials. The exhibition features more than 70 works by 14 artists, including jewelry, tableware, decorative accessories and design drawings. Shown together, as they would have been at the time of their creation, the objects invite visitors to explore the philosophy and artistry of the Arts and Crafts movement in Boston, as well as the stories of their makers and owners. Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork is accompanied by a complementary installation in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing and an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications. Presented with support from the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc. / Susan B. Kaplan, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, and Dyann and Peter Wirth.
Edward H. Linde Gallery
through April 12, 2020
This exhibition features work by four graduate and undergraduate students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Katherine Wildman’s imagined domestic interior houses talismanic figures that represent the unborn desires of one’s dormant selves. Timothy Manalo celebrates the preservation of traditions in communities of the Filipino diaspora through a multi-sensory installation that exalts the everyday objects commonly found at his family’s festive gatherings. Louis Meola’s intaglio prints invite visitors to consider the stories embedded in the cracks, scratches, and contours of materials like scrap metal and broken Plexiglas. Seeking to correct the lack of representation of women of color in the art world, Perla Mabel paints scenes from existing artworks onto satin tapestries, populating them with portraits of women from her life. Curated by Emily Chun and Juan Omar Rodriguez, graduate students in History of Art and Architecture at Tufts, this exhibition is one of a series that reflects the Museum’s commitment to the next generation of promising artists and curators. Presented biannually, it continues the historic relationship between the Museum and the SMFA, which dates back to the school’s founding in 1876. Generously supported by the Callaghan Family Fund for Contemporary Exhibitions.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (multiple galleries)
through May 4, 2020
This reinstallation of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art presents five groupings of works, primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection. Each gallery explores a theme inspired by the particular history of the Museum’s contemporary collection: color field painting, anthropomorphic figures, surrealist sculptures, gender and sexuality, and failed utopianism. Among the highlights are a newly commissioned, site-specific work by Lucy Dodd, recently acquired works by Simone Leigh, Julia Phillips, Odilon Redon, Vivian Suter and Cecilia Vicuña, and rarely shown objects from the MFA’s collection by pivotal, yet under-recognized artists including Frank Bowling, Joan Brown, Georg Herold and Bob Thompson.
Lizbeth and George Krupp Gallery
through May 4, 2020
The four videos featured in this installation consider the female voice—where it’s accepted and how it’s suppressed; its treatment as simultaneously alluring and repulsive; and its relationship to the body. Works by Patty Chang and Marilyn Minter subvert idealized images by introducing an element of the grotesque. In Hand to Mouth (2000), Chang parodies the superficial roles women occupy in fetish films, while Minter’s Green Pink Caviar (2009) features an artfully made-up mouth lapping and regurgitating green slime in slow motion—blurring the line between desire and disgust. Other works give visual form to the sound of a woman’s voice. VALIE EXPORT goes to the literal source of speech in i turn over the pictures of my voice in my head (2009), training a medical endoscopy camera on her own larynx while she recites a poem. In Fingernails on a blackboard: Bella (2014), Sharon Hayes displays a conversation between a vocal coach and former U.S. congresswomen Bella Abzug as white text on a blue screen. The dialogue shows the stentorian Abzug practicing a number of absurd vocal exercises in order to achieve a softer tone.
Walter Ames Compton, MD Gallery
through June 30, 2020
Visitors have the rare opportunity to observe while seven important Japanese Buddhist sculptures are conserved by MFA Objects Conservators. The objects of worship—dating from the 9th to the 12th centuries—depict Buddhas, Guardian Kings and a Wisdom King. An entire gallery in the Museum’s Art of Asia Wing is being converted into a public Conservation in Action lab where conservators will carefully clean the wooden sculptures—all decorated with polychromy or gilding—and secure areas of loose paint, lacquer and gilding. This new setting will also allow conservators and curators to look closely at the sculptures with the Museum’s research scientists, identifying the original artists’ materials, documenting early restorations and collaborating with wood anatomists in Japan to confirm the wood identifications. Also on view in the gallery are three additional sculptures that show different examples of sculptural techniques and styles. In 2020, the seven sculptures will return to the MFA’s refurbished Buddhist Temple Room, which was designed in 1909 and evokes the dignified simplicity of Japanese temples.
Asian Paintings Gallery
through August 9, 2020
In 2018, the MFA received the largest and most significant gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy in its history: the Weng Family Collection, comprising 183 objects that were acquired by and passed down through six generations of a single family. This is the first in a series of three exhibitions celebrating the landmark donation made by Wan-go H. C. Weng, a longtime Museum supporter and one of the most respected collectors and connoisseurs of Chinese painting in the U.S. Featuring approximately 20 masterpieces from the gift, the first installation explores the theme of family and friends. Among the highlights are works by some of the greatest masters from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, which demonstrate the close association of painting and calligraphy with human relationships in Chinese art. The intimate Suzhou Sceneries (1484–1504) album describes Shen Zhou’s travels with friends around his home region, while Nine Letters to Home (after 1523), written by Wen Zhengming to his wife and sons, portray an emotionality not usually seen in the artist’s more formal works. Depicting a powerful salt merchant and art collector, Portrait of An Qi in His Garden (1698) is a collaboration between two friends, Wang Hui and Jiao Bingzhen, both celebrated court artists of the day. The most recent piece in the exhibition is a handscroll painted by Wan-go H. C. Weng himself, Elegant Gathering at the Laixi Residence (1986–90). The contemporary work commemorates a momentous gathering of friends—including six of the world’s most respected historians of Chinese paintings—held at the collector’s home in 1985. Generously supported by the Tan Family Education Foundation. Additional support from the Rodger and Dawn Nordblom Fund for Chinese Paintings in Honor of Marjorie C. Nordblom, The June N. and John C. Robinson Fund for Chinese Paintings in Honor of Marjorie C. Nordblom, and the Joel Alvord and Lisa Schmid Alvord Fund.
Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria
through December 31, 2020
This installation by Robert Pruitt (born 1975) inaugurates a new series of annual commissions at the MFA, which engages artists to create large-scale banners to be hung from the glass ceiling of the I. M. Pei-designed Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. Born in Houston and based in New York, Pruitt is best known for masterful, oversized figurative drawings that are embedded with cultural symbols of Africa and the African Diaspora. For his Banner Project at the Museum, the artist has chosen to depict three Bostonians who represent three generations of the local community: Ithaca College student and former MFA intern Sofia Meadows-Muriel; community leader and advocate Jacqueline Cummings-Furtado; and Brenda Lee, who has worked as a security officer at the Museum for nearly 40 years. A central element in each diptych of portraits—one on each side of the 11-foot-high banners—is a set of 19th-century ceramic face jugs from the MFA’s collection, some of the earliest surviving aesthetic objects produced by African Americans. The three pieces, titled Birth and Rebirth and Rebirth (2019), Cut Piece (2019) and Red Starbursts (2019), also reference other works in the collection, from an ancient Egyptian beadnet dress to mid-20th-century wrappers made and worn by Yoruba women in Nigeria.
Art of the Americas Wing (multiple galleries)
through May 3, 2021
Marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020, this reinstallation—or “takeover”—of the entire third floor of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing highlights approximately 200 works made by women artists over the last century. This exhibition and related programming challenge the dominant history of 20th-century art by highlighting the overlooked and underrepresented work and stories of women artists, while advocating for diversity, inclusion and gender equity. Primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection, Women Take the Floor is organized into seven thematic galleries and features paintings, sculpture, prints, photographs, jewelry, textiles, ceramics and furniture. Sponsored by Bank of America. Generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation. Additional support from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund, and the Eugenie Prendergast Memorial Fund.
Opened July 20, 2019
Reinstalled and reinterpreted, the MFA’s new Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery is designed to expand how visitors see and understand the diverse arts of Islamic cultures. Its thematic installation, developed through an intensive eight-year process of engagement with Islamic, artistic and scholarly communities, is divided into distinct spaces that reflect the richness of these artistic traditions. Some sections explore art forms that are integral to all Islamic cultures, like Arabic calligraphy, while others focus on unique visual traditions such as that of Ottoman Turkey or Mughal India. Still other sections delve deeply into the history of singular objects in the collection, such as a remarkable door compiled for the first American World’s Fair out of fragments of medieval Egyptian woodwork. The MFA’s collection of Islamic art encompasses works from countries of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, as well as works created across the globe within Islamic communities or societies. The collection was established in 1870, the year the MFA was founded, and has grown to become one of the most important in the U.S. Visitors to the gallery encounter work by contemporary artists and have the opportunity, through a multimedia display, to hear directly from them about their work and its connection to Islamic cultures. They are also be able to listen to audio recordings of Qur’an recitation created in partnership with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, one of many local organizations whose members have contributed to the creation of this new gallery.