Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
|Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation||April 5–August 2, 2020|
|Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression||April 18–August 23, 2020|
|Cy Twombly: Making Past Present||July 18–October 24, 2020|
|LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photography||August 19–December 13, 2020|
|Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories||October 11, 2020–January 18, 2021|
|Strong Women in Renaissance Italy (working title)||October 28, 2020–February 21, 2021|
|Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Family and Friends||through August 9, 2020|
|The Banner Project: Robert Pruitt||through December 13, 2020|
|Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork||through January 3, 2021|
|Women Take the Floor||through May 3, 2021|
|Black Histories, Black Futures||through June 20, 2021|
|Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery||opened July 20, 2019|
* Bolded exhibitions are on view in the Museum's Ann and Graham Gund Gallery.
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Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
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 5 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.
Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery and Henry and Lois Foster Gallery
April 18–August 23, 2020
In honor of its 150th anniversary in 2020, the MFA celebrates a great treasure of its collection with an exhibition that offers a once-in-generation chance to see all 35 of the Museum’s oil paintings by Claude Monet—among the largest holdings of the artist’s work outside France. Many of the paintings were brought to Boston during Monet’s lifetime, and, although a gallery was dedicated to a rotating display of the artist’s works in 2016, it has been 25 years since the entire collection has been shown together. Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression highlights this city’s and this Museum’s enduring commitment to the artist, who breathed fresh life into the art of painting and proposed a new way of seeing and depicting the world. Boston was a center for the collecting and appreciation of Monet's works even during his lifetime, and through the generosity and forward vision of local collectors, a retrospective exhibition of his long career permanently resides within the MFA's walls. What’s more: the exhibition draws from the Museum's broader global collection to bring Monet’s early works into conversation with exemplars he admired—from Japanese woodblock prints to earlier European paintings—enabling a fuller understanding and appreciation of the art and artists that informed his own vision.
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.
LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photography
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
August 19–December 13, 2020
From the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, the vast majority of photographs printed and consumed in the U.S. appeared on the pages of illustrated magazines. Among them, LIFE—published weekly from 1936 to 1972—was both wildly popular and visually revolutionary. This exhibition, co-organized by the MFA and the Princeton University Art Museum, is the first to examine the magazine’s impact on the way its readers understood photography—and experienced important historical events. Through unprecedented access to the LIFE Picture Collection and the newly available Time Inc. Archive at the New-York Historical Society, the exhibition brings together more than 180 objects, including original press prints, contact sheets, photographers’ assignment notes, internal memos and layout experiments that shed new light on the collaborative process behind many now-iconic images and photo essays. From Neil Armstrong’s portrait of fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the moon to Charles Moore’s coverage of the race riots in Birmingham, the photographs on view capture some of the most defining moments of the 20th century. LIFE Magazine and the Power of Photography highlights a wide range of photographers hired by the magazine, such as Margaret Bourke-White, Larry Burrows, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Frank Dandridge, Yousuf Karsh, Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith, whose work is explored in the context of the creative and editorial structures at LIFE. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, with essays and contributions from 25 scholars of art history, American studies, history and communication studies.
Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
October 11, 2020–January 18, 2021
Through the stories they tell, quilts and bedcovers reveal the complicated and sometimes unfamiliar history of North America, from the arrival of European colonists in the 17th century to the present day. Drawing on more than 50 quilts, bed rugs, coverlets and contemporary works of art in the MFA’s collection, the exhibition will explore many challenging issues not usually discussed in the context of a quilt show. While a number of pieces were made and owned by Americans of European descent, others were imported from Britain, France, Mexico and India, and reflect the diverse American society engaged in global textile production and trade over five centuries. A highlight of the exhibition will be the display of one of only two known surviving quilts made by Harriet Powers (1837–1910), an African American woman born into slavery in Athens, Georgia. Works by contemporary artists who incorporate imagery and techniques from traditional quilts to address difficult political and social issues will also appear throughout the exhibition, and speak to the resonance of quilts today. This exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications.
Strong Women in Renaissance Italy (working title)
Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery
October 28, 2020–February 21, 2021
This exhibition explores female power and agency in Renaissance Italy, bringing together approximately 50 works of art—mostly from the MFA’s own collection but including several key loans—that illustrate women’s roles in various aspects of society, from the domestic and civic spheres to religious and devotional practice. While women did not have overt political and financial standing, their influence was more widespread than is generally recognized today. They were artists, patrons, writers and active members of the workforce—particularly in convents, where they participated in textile and manuscript production, education, medicine and botany. The exhibition highlights individual women such as Sofonisba Anguissola, who became a court painter to King Phillip II of Spain and the creator of more self-portraits than any other Italian Renaissance artist, male or female; and Isabella d’Este, the greatest female patron of the time. Representations of women in biblical and mythological contexts are explored as well, including images of the biblical heroine Judith, the saint Mary Magdalene and the sorceress Medea. Grouped in thematic sections, the objects on view include sculpture, paintings, maiolica vessels and plates, prints, manuscripts, printed books and textiles.
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 13, 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.
Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery
through January 3, 2021
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.
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.
Carol Vance Wall Rotunda, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center, Lower Hemicycle
through 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.
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.