Upcoming Exhibitions and Galleries
|Hallyu! The Korean Wave||March 24, 2024–July 28, 2024|
|Dress Up||April 13–September 2, 2024|
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Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (Gallery LG31)
March 24–July 28, 2024
The first major exhibition to celebrate the colorful and dynamic pop culture of South Korea makes its U.S. debut at the MFA in March 2024. Hallyu! The Korean Wave traces the country’s meteoric rise from a nation ravaged by war in the 1950s to a leading cultural powerhouse by the dawn of the 21st century. Over the past two decades, the phenomenon known as hallyu, which translates to “Korean Wave,” has captured a global audience with its transformative contributions to cinema, drama, music, fandom and the beauty and fashion industries. The exhibition will feature more than 200 works—including K-pop costumes, K-drama props and posters, photography and video—as well as immersive and digital displays.
Highlights of the exhibition include an array of iconic costumes and props seen in K-drama and film—including the hit Netflix series Squid Game—and outfits worn by different generations of K-pop idols, from PSY to members of BTS, aespa and ATEEZ. High-fashion looks like Munn to streetwear by Darcygom and Ji Won Choi for Adidas, among others, demonstrate how young designers take inspiration from traditional Korean patterns and the silhouette of the hanbok. Additionally, an interactive dance challenge invites visitors to learn the synchronized, sophisticated choreography that is the hallmark of K-pop music.
The MFA's presentation of Hallyu! The Korean Wave also includes objects from the Museum’s renowned collection of Korean art, which encompasses more than 1,000 works and is one of the finest outside East Asia.
“Hallyu! The Korean Wave” is created by the V&A—touring the world. The exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation. Additional support from the Museum Council Special Exhibition Fund.
Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158)
April 13–September 2, 2024
Our choice of dress can make a political statement, express a mood, or communicate personal identities. Through more than 100 works from the MFA’s collection including 20th- and 21st-century clothing, jewelry, accessories, illustrations, and photographs, this exhibition explores adornment and its role in the creation of a look.
Jewelry and fashion are given equal attention here; there is no delineation between the two to encourage thinking of jewelry as fashion and fashion as jewelry. Objects with beads, sequins, and sparkle blur the lines between each genre and help visitors consider how and where the two can—and do—intersect.
Frances Vrachos Gallery / Mary Stamas Gallery (Gallery 148)
through December 18, 2023
In 1964, Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) began work on a series of prints he called Suite of Plant Lithographs. Printed in Paris in 1965 and 1966, they capture the essence of botanical subjects such as camellia leaves or cyclamen with an unerring spareness and elegance.
In celebration of the centennial of Kelly’s birth, this exhibition presents ten highlights from the Suite of Plant Lithographs. See masterfully rendered forms at once familiar and unfamiliar: leaves, branches, and fruit distilled into pure black contour lines free of color or shading, floating as abstract shapes on otherwise empty sheets of paper. Such instinctive observation of the world around him—and distillation to its essential form—fueled the abstract paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures that defined Kelly’s seven-decade career.
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery (Gallery 184)
through January 7, 2024
This exhibition examines the lives of women in Renaissance Italy and provides new perspectives on their creativity, power and agency. It brings together approximately 100 works of art from the MFA’s collection—sculpture, paintings, ceramics, textiles, illustrated books and prints—along with key loans from the British Library, the Dayton Art Institute, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, the Boston Athenaeum and a private collection. These objects, dating from the 14th through the early 17th centuries, encompass both the sacred and the secular. They tell stories about female presence and power that once went unheard, and include works made by women, for women, commissioned or collected by women, and representing women. Some were made by well-known artists like Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana, others by women whose names remain unknown. Representations of women in historical, religious and mythological contexts include images of the biblical heroine Judith, the saint Mary Magdalene and the sorceress Medea. Grouped in thematic sections, the objects on view illuminate various facets of Renaissance women’s lives, from the domestic and civic spheres to religious experience and devotional practice.
“Strong Women in Renaissance Italy” is generously supported by Tamara Petrosian Davis and Charles Howard Davis II. Additional support from Dr. Susanna I. Lee, the Cordover Exhibition Fund, the Patricia B. Jacoby Exhibition Fund, and The Bruce and Laura Monrad Fund for Exhibitions. Media Sponsor is Boston Magazine.
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery (LG31)
through January 15, 2024
In portraits by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), sitters assume elegant stances, the fabric of their dress richly depicted in broad, sensuous strokes of paint. Sargent brought his subjects to life, but he did much more than simply record what appeared before him. He often chose what his sitters wore and, even if they arrived in his studio dressed in the latest fashions, he frequently simplified and altered the details. Exploiting dress was an integral part of his artistry.
Organized with Tate Britain, Fashioned by Sargent explores the artist’s complex relationship with his often-affluent clients and their clothes. The exhibition reveals Sargent’s power over his sitters’ images by considering the liberties he took with sartorial choices to express distinctive personalities, social positions, professions, gender identities and nationalities. Alongside about 50 paintings by Sargent, over a dozen period garments and accessories shed new light on the relationship between fashion and this beloved artist’s creative practice.
In addition to style icons like Madame X, Lady Agnew and Dr. Pozzi at Home, the exhibition brings together several paintings with the garments worn by the sitters, among them Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth with her beetle-wing encrusted costume, and Mrs. Charles Inches (Louise Pomeroy) with her red velvet evening gown. Visitors are invited to step into the making of a Sargent portrait and consider ideas of curating—and controlling—one’s image.
“Fashioned by Sargent” is sponsored by Bank of America. Generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support from the Barbara M. Eagle Exhibition Fund, the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Fund for Exhibitions, and the Alexander M. Levine and Dr. Rosemarie D. Bria-Levine Exhibition Fund. “Fashioned by Sargent” is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Tate Britain, London, England.
Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery (Gallery 155)
through February 11, 2024
Simply defined, a miniature is an object smaller than its parent object—compare a chair made for a doll’s house at two inches tall with a normal-sized one. The unexpected scale of miniatures, especially in relation to humans as viewers, can be instantly unsettling and uncanny. But miniatures are full of charm and humor, and they carry meaning all the more profound for being distilled into a smaller form.
Featuring works in a surprising array of media—paintings, drawings, ceramics, precious metals and gems and more—from the 7th century B.C.E. all the way to the present day, this exhibition explores miniaturization in art and how artists and artisans play with our perception of scale. The more than 100 objects on view span a range of sizes, from just a few centimeters to over two feet, and include amulets from ancient Egypt, sculpted ivory and wood netsuke from Edo Japan and jewelry depicting miniaturized everyday items.
Through a selection of objects that’s as expansive as it is eclectic, visitors can see miniatures, which are by nature overlooked, as masterpieces in their own right. They provide as much stimulation as grander works, and their intricate details, requiring an incredible amount of skill to execute, often make them more demanding to create than their larger counterparts. With everything from diminutive decor to mini woven baskets—and even a pint-sized painting by Picasso—Tiny Treasures shows miniatures to be far more compelling than their size would suggest.
Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158)
through February 14, 2024
Matthew Wong achieved resounding critical acclaim during his short career, which spanned just six years, between 2013, when he began painting and drawing in earnest, and his death in 2019. In that time, he became known for vibrant landscape paintings in a wide range of styles and mediums, including oil, ink, watercolor and gouache. Wong spent most of his life between Canada and Hong Kong; in their universality, his landscapes reflect this transnationality.
Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances is the first museum retrospective and first U.S. museum exhibition devoted to the self-taught artist. Featuring approximately 40 paintings, it offers the first formal account of how Wong adeptly synthesized many inspirations—from the Fauvists to 17th-century Qing period ink painters to contemporaries he admired—to create a visual language uniquely his own.
“Matthew Wong: The Realm of Appearances” is supported by the Henry and Lois Foster Fund for Contemporary Exhibitions, the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, the Diane Krane Family and Jonathan and Gina Krane Family Fund, and the Joel Alvord and Lisa Schmid Alvord Fund.
Edward and Nancy Roberts Family Gallery (Gallery LG26)
through March 17, 2024
Marking Resilience: Indigenous North American Prints showcases 30 newly acquired prints by Indigenous artists from the U.S. and Canada. For Indigenous North American artists, using paper and print technology reinscribes tools of colonization into a means of empowerment. Mostly created through artist residencies at print studios, such as Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, these prints represent artist forays into a medium outside of their typical practices, as an opportunity to experiment and reconceptualize significant subjects. Artists featured in the exhibition maintain and reinterpret long practiced art forms, shining a light on the challenges of current Native American activists and their efforts.
Organized in collaboration with artist and Rhode Island School of Design professor Duane Slick (Meskwaki/Ho-Chunk), the exhibition highlights emerging and established artists including Dyani White Hawk (Sicangu Lakota), James Luna (Luiseno), Marie Watt (Seneca Nation), and Jeffrey Gibson (Mississippi Choctaw/Cherokee). Marking Resilience will be followed by a second exhibition of Indigenous North American prints in May 2024, focused on themes of ancestry and place.
Lizbeth and George Krupp Gallery (Gallery 264)
through March 24, 2024
Jell-O’s presence in contemporary art is an extension of its visual and cultural history. Since its invention in 1897 the cheap yet luxurious pantry staple has attracted customers with its taste as well as its visible and tactile sensory delights. Early and mid-20th-century recipe pamphlets full of colorful prints appealed to consumers’ desires for the “sparkling,” “luscious,” “desired,” “decorative,” and “quivery-tender” dessert. These invocations of Jell-O’s shimmering appearance accompanied assurances of the food’s health benefits, affordability, and easy preparation, all as a way of indulging its gendered and idealized target market: housewives, brides-to-be, and mothers.
In Digital Iridescence: Jell-O in New Media, five contemporary artists use gelatin in video works to explore themes like embodiment and perception—fitting ideas to investigate through Jell-O, which is bodily and flesh like, made from animal matter, and distorts and plays with observation and vision. Sharona Franklin calls the gelatin sculptures in her video “bioshrines,” highlighting their dual roles as living organisms and sacred objects in her treatment of chronic illness and disability. Displayed nearby, Alison Kuo’s video engages sacrifice, sensuality, and aspiration contained in gelatin’s material and social histories. In addition to Franklin and Kuo, the exhibition features local artists Katherine Mitchell DiRico and Kelly Chen and debuts new works by Maisie. Each artist mobilizes Jell-O’s emotional and sensory potential to consider the sanctified social constructs of health, beauty, consumption, metamorphosis, performance, and ritual.
Edward H. Linde Gallery (Gallery 168)
through April 14, 2024
Brazilian American artist Dinorá Justice (b. 1969) uses a distinct visual vocabulary to examine intertwined histories of gender, landscape, and visual culture. In her paintings, feminine figures, lush natural environments, and rich marbled patterns subtly reframe art historical “masterpieces” with care and attention, recognizing their merits and, at the same time, rejecting their tendency to cast feminine figures as symbols of colonized territory for the male eye. Her sculptures riff on ancient figurines that once celebrated cycles of life.
In her painting Portrait 51, after Delacroix’s “Women of Algiers” (2021), the artist unifies anonymous female subjects by placing them in interdependent dialogue with their outdoor setting. Linking women figures directly to the natural world is a common theme throughout Justice’s work. While this connection is often idealized and romanticized in art historical contexts, the reality is grimmer—violence against women and the environment is rampant. Luring viewers with vibrancy, Justice’s works awaken attention and shift perspectives not just on art history, but on how we care for one another and the world around us.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Tufts University Art Galleries at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA) and is part of the SMFA’s 2023 Traveling Fellow exhibition program, presented in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Herb Ritts Gallery (Gallery 169)
through April 28, 2024
A photographer’s studio is a laboratory of creativity—a physical and psychological space for meditation, collaboration and experimentation. Creative Spaces: The Photographer’s Studio as Inspiration invites visitors to step inside these rooms through approximately 30 20th- and 21st-century photographs from the MFA’s collection that document photographers’ rarely seen studios.
The exhibition explores the studio as a site of solitary invention for some photographers and, for others, an area activated by the presence of their subjects—whether children, backdrops, props, animals or simply light. Florence Henri, Roger Ballen and Robert Cumming mix natural and manmade elements in their work to produce simple tabletop arrangements while Rachel Perry and William Wegman use unconventional materials and methods. The breadth of photographers included in the exhibition represents the numerous processes and approaches to the medium, including multiple exposures, photo collages, cyanotypes, platinum prints and digital prints. In “Creative Spaces” viewers can consider what sparks an artist’s imagination and the many different ways to define a studio.
Clementine Brown Gallery (Gallery 170)
through April 28, 2024
Around 1920, Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) began to paint some of the most famous and recognizable artworks of the last century. These abstract paintings, characterized by white backgrounds, spare black lines and blocks of primary color, have become ubiquitous in today’s popular culture and are regarded as the heart of Mondrian’s achievement. But the path to these works are far less known. Reflecting his artistic roots in Holland in the late 19th century, Mondrian’s early paintings capture the characteristic Dutch landscape, filled with canals and windmills, fields and farmhouses, flowers and trees. When seen side by side with Mondrian’s later, non-representational paintings, they reveal an artist who constantly reinvented himself as he absorbed new influences on his journey toward abstraction.
Mondrian: Foundations is the first monographic exhibition of Mondrian’s work at the MFA, presenting 11 paintings and 17 works on paper that span his entire career, with an emphasis on his early years, when he worked in a lesser known realistic style. Composition with Blue, Yellow and Red (1927) is the most recent work by Mondrian on view in the exhibition, which also features his earliest known painting, The Large Ponds in the Hague Forest (1887), made when he was just 15 years old and on loan to the Museum from Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo.
A majority of the works in the exhibition are drawn from a transformational gift to the MFA from Maria and Conrad Janis by and through the Janis Living Trust. The gift, which includes 34 works by Mondrian—24 of which are on view in the exhibition—elevates the MFA to one of the leading institutions outside of the Netherlands for the study and display of the artist’s early work.
Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria (Gallery 265)
through June 23, 2024
Based in Providence, Rhode Island, artist Sheida Soleimani (born 1990) constructs elaborate and surreal tableaux in her studio. She then photographs these meticulously prepared sets, which incorporate mixed-media backdrops, props and symbols. Models are central to each scene, but their faces are always hidden, providing an air of anonymity, if not universality, and shifting focus to their gestures.
For her Banner Project, Soleimani has photographed her parents with their backs to the camera, each raising a single fist. This pose, often associated with solidarity and unity, is one of many clues in the pictures that indicate her parents are political dissidents: Iranian refugees who fled their home to avoid persecution. Soleimani’s photographs shield her parents while providing suggestive, layered signs pointing to the sociopolitical landscape that shapes their lives. Picturing a variety of objects—each a different material representation of Soleimani’s parents’ experiences and stories—these banners invite visitors to follow traces, unpack allusions and draw connections to the wave of protests taking place across Iran today.
This is part of an ongoing series of commissions that engages artists to create banners for display in the Museum’s Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.
Supported by the Trust Family Contemporary Exhibition Fund.
Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries
through September 29, 2024
Born in Hawaii to immigrant parents from Okinawa, Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011) was a technically masterful and innovative artist best known for her ceramic sculptures, which she treated as abstract paintings in the round. Her gestural style, distinctive palettes and complex layering of glazes align with the practices of Abstract Expressionists who were her contemporaries. Yet, Takaezu introduced an added element of chance as her pieces only revealed their final colors after firing. She often showed her ceramics in groups, sometimes with her equally innovative paintings and textiles, in carefully constructed arrangements that responded to their environment. This exhibition takes inspiration from these displays, tracing Takaezu’s development from potter to multimedia installation artist.
The MFA holds a significant collection of Takaezu’s pottery—more than 20 examples are featured here alongside loans from private collections. Highlights also include a large-scale weaving that has been recently acquired by the Museum and a grouping of works that explores the artist’s cross-cultural interactions with contemporary Japanese ceramicists during her pivotal eight-month trip to Japan in 1955–56. In conjunction with the exhibition, an additional display in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art juxtaposes Takaezu’s work with that of her longtime friend, the sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Challenging traditional presentations of American abstraction, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary range of Takaezu’s work—aiming to make her contributions more widely known.
Supported by the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund, The Amy and Jonathan Poorvu Fund for the Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Sculpture, and the Eugenie Prendergast Memorial Fund.
The exhibition would not have been possible without the collaboration of the Toshiko Takaezu Foundation and The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. The Noguchi Museum has organized a major touring retrospective, Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within, which will open in New York in March 2024 and will travel nationally through 2026.
William A. Coolidge Gallery (The Center for Netherlandish Art’s Gallery for Innovative Scholarship, Gallery 243A)
through November 3, 2024
A collaboration between the MFA’s Center for Netherlandish Art and the Yale University Art Gallery, Thinking Small: Dutch Art to Scale explores an intriguing selection of objects from the 17th-century Netherlands that were designed to elicit slow, intimate and contemplative engagement on the part of their original audiences. With objects drawn from rich collections across Yale’s campus as well as the CNA, the exhibition compels viewers to reconsider their relationship to the world around them.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, Level 2
through July 28, 2025
At their core, creating and looking at works of art are acts of care, from the artist’s labor to the viewer’s contemplation and appreciation. Storage, conservation, and display are also ways of tending to art. This exhibition invites visitors to explore how contemporary artists trace and address concepts of care through their materials, subjects, ideas and processes.
Around 100 works from the MFA’s collection define, depict, and demonstrate many forms of care through five thematic groupings: threads, thresholds, rest, vibrant matter, and adoration. Gisela Charfauros McDaniel’s portrait of her mother, Tiningo’ si Sirena (2021), moves between intimacy and an attentiveness to larger concepts that are meaningful to the artist, like cultural inheritances and ecological interconnectivity. For his Sound Suit (2008), Nick Cave extended the lifespan of discarded objects by transforming them into a surreal, otherworldly costume that asserts the value of Black life. The intensive time and labor that goes into creating textiles and fiber art is evident in examples by Sheila Hicks, Howardena Pindell and Jane Sauer. Through these works and many others visitors can consider how different forms of care may inspire new models for living and feeling—now and in the future.
Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. Memorial Room (Gallery 141A)
Opened August 2022
The newly renovated French Salon provides an opulent setting for nearly 100 highlights from the MFA’s Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. Collection of French silver. This “period room” cannot in fact be pinned down to one specific period—an in-depth restoration campaign that began in 2018 yielded a stunning finding that half of the space dates to 18th-century France and the other half to early 20th-century New York. Installed in thematic groupings throughout the room, the silver objects on view include works made for royal, domestic and ecclesiastical purposes—showcasing the craftsmanship of silversmiths who worked in Paris and provincial French cities from the late 16th through the early 19th centuries.
Perhaps even more than other decorative arts objects, silver works carry with them physical evidence of their creation and subsequent lives. The raw material of silver is evident, and the signs of the many hands that processed it still remain: stamped marks tell the story of the artists, the tax collectors who evaluated quality, and the town guild where the pieces were made. In some instances, subsequent owners have engraved their coats of arms, inventory numbers or initials. An in-gallery video explores one incredible object in particular—an exquisite sauceboat by the star Parisian silversmith in mid-18th century, François-Thomas Germain—tracing its fascinating history from the mining of raw material in South America to the creation of the piece in France.
The salon itself, which entered the MFA’s collection nearly 100 years ago, is also presented as a museum object. An in-gallery video traces its evolution from France, to New York, where it was part of a Fifth Avenue mansion owned by businessman William Salomon, to Boston.
With gratitude to Elizabeth Parke Willis-Leatherman for her generous support of the renovation of this gallery.
(Gallery 141, 141B)
Opened August 2022
Two newly renovated, light-filled spaces present a new vision of the MFA’s collection of Italian Renaissance art, bringing together approximately 90 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, furniture and objects made for use in the home, including several recent acquisitions. The first gallery considers a variety of themes through object groupings: the meanings of antiquity for Renaissance artists, viewers and patrons; technical innovations and materials; the role of storytelling and the variety of narrative formats in Renaissance art; and the everyday lives of men and women. The second gallery explores the interweaving of religion and art, presenting works ranging from small-scale devotional paintings to larger-scale works including Rosso Fiorentino’s masterpiece The Dead Christ with Angels (about 1524–27). Together, these spaces convey the complexity, variety, creativity, spirituality, self-definition and curiosity that drove the making and appreciation of works during the Italian Renaissance—a period that continues to inspire and resonate with many today.
The renovation of these galleries is made possible with generous support from Emi M. and William G. Winterer, the Thompson Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor. Additional support from Tamara Petrosian Davis and Charles Howard Davis II.
Bernard and Barbara Stern Shapiro Gallery (Gallery 231)
Opened December 2023
Bringing together nearly 30 works from the MFA’s collection of Jewish ritual art, or Judaica—most of which are new acquisitions on view for the first time—this gallery explores the splendor of items made for Jewish religious experience, at home and in the synagogue. Treasures of all kinds are on view: metalwork, textiles, paintings, furniture, and works on paper. Created across the centuries, they originate from places as far reaching as Asia, North Africa, Europe, and the United States. Though their meaning and use have always been intrinsically Jewish, their styles and techniques vary greatly, reflecting the artistic language of their surrounding cultures.
With lavish reliefs, engravings, and enamel and niello adornments, a Torah shield by Elimelekh Tzoref of Stanislav (Galicia, modern-day Ukraine) (1781–82) is one of the finest in existence. Its remarkable ornamentation and craftsmanship reflect the importance of the Torah scroll—the handwritten text of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible—in Judaism. Constructed to house the scroll at the now-defunct Shaare Zion Synagogue in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a Torah ark by woodcarver Samuel Katz (about 1920) is rooted in local history: it tells a story about immigration to Boston and the many changes and challenges Jews from the area faced in the early 20th century.
Contemporary works from the United States and Israel, such as kiddush cups, candlesticks, and spice boxes used in the observation of Shabbat, offer innovative takes on Judaica for the home. Older items—including a wood and silver Torah case from Baghdad (modern-day Iraq) (1879) and used in Calcutta, India—act as tangible testimonies to their communities’ histories. Taken together, these objects draw connections that offer a deeper understanding of Jewish values, traditions, and identity across time and geography.
"Intentional Beauty: Jewish Ritual Art from the Collection" is sponsored by the David Berg Foundation. Additional support provided by Lorraine Bressler, the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc., Lisbeth Tarlow and Stephen Kay, and The Priebatsch Family Fund, in loving memory of Norman Priebatsch. With special gratitude to Marcia and Louis Kamentsky and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
Art of the Americas Wing, Level 3
A new reinstallation of the third floor of the Art of the Americas Wing presents modern art from North and South America beyond the standard boundaries of geography, time and artistic movements. Stories Artists Tell: Art of the Americas, the 20th Century takes the form of an anthology, with each room offering a short story on a different theme—from the perspectives of Native artists in the Southwest to the vibrant connections between art, design and jazz at midcentury. The works are primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection, with well-known icons appearing alongside new acquisitions and other objects on view for the first time. Stories Artists Tell comprises six galleries that also provide context for a rotating central space, which will feature a series of special exhibitions in the coming years. The first, Touching Roots: Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas, brings together work by Black artists in the Americas who turned their gaze to Africa to find grounding, strength and guidance, and gained insight into their identities, aesthetics and artistic practices.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, Level 2
Hank Willis Thomas (born 1976) probes the visual culture of identity, history, social justice and popular media through conceptual art. His multimedia installations invite viewers to consider modes of systemic oppression and explore the depths of collective memory. These two installations, which source imagery from photography and archival materials, reframe historical iconography to resonate with contemporary audiences and propose constructive, collaborative, reparative futures.
Inspired by an antique postcard of a young Black man—possibly a World War I veteran—holding a rifle, Remember Me (2022) memorializes the strength, courage, and forgotten legacies of rural African Americans in the early 20th century. It replicates, as a large illuminated neon sign, the words handwritten on the back of the postcard: “Remember me.” Thomas encountered the source object at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.
“…but by the content of their character” (Test pattern) (2020) also deals with memory, imagery and race. This work is one of several Thomas has made by placing a UV print on retroreflective vinyl, creating rainbow-hued vertical bands reminiscent of a TV test pattern. Viewers must move through space for the reflective photographic image to become visible. In this specific iteration of the series, Thomas spotlights an iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Flash photography further activates the image—inviting visitors to participate in image making.
Where Remember Me memorializes an unidentified figure one would not expect to find in textbooks or in movies, “...but by the content of their character” (Test pattern) features an iconic image of a widely known civil rights activist at a key, defining moment. Both works prompt perspectival shifts, asking audiences to reflect on the process of storytelling and history’s biases in a call to action.
This installation is presented in conjunction with the unveiling of The Embrace, a new memorial in the Boston Common honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s commitment to racial equity. The Embrace was designed by Thomas and the MASS Design Group and commissioned by Embrace Boston, the Boston Foundation and the Collection of the City of Boston.