Advance Exhibition Schedule

Upcoming Exhibitions

Title Dates
Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art Dates TBC
Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes Dates TBC

Current Exhibitions

Title Dates
Cézanne: In and Out of Time through February 28, 2021
Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression through February 28, 2021
Community Arts Initiative: Exchange Codes through April 11, 2021
Women Take the Floor through May 3, 2021
Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation through May 16, 2021
Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera through May 23, 2021
Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper through May 23, 2021
Black Histories, Black Futures through June 20, 2021

Please contact Public Relations to verify titles and dates before publication:

Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries

Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art

Edward and Nancy Roberts Family Gallery
February 6, 2021–January 9, 2022

Throughout the 1940s and 50s, art collector and MFA benefactor Maxim Karolik championed the radical notion of incorporating American “folk art” into the Museum’s collection and disrupting long-held standards and definitions of “fine art.” Through Karolik’s enthusiasm and generosity, the MFA became one of the first encyclopedic museums in the country to actively collect works by artisans, craftspeople, women, schoolchildren, sailors and other artists who were free from the strict rules of traditional Western academic training. Through 59 works on paper shown in two successive rotations and 20 sculptural objects drawn primarily from the MFA’s Karolik Collection of American Folk Art, Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art reflects on Karolik’s quest to champion the “art of the people” by examining the creation of “folk art” as a collecting category in the early 20th century. The exhibition signals the MFA’s ongoing efforts to present a contemporary and inclusive interpretation of artwork previously labeled as “folk art,” reconsidering what is art, who is an artist and how art should be displayed in the Museum. The reinterpretation of the Karolik Collection of American Folk Art introduces a new folk art initiative at the MFA, building on the ideas of inclusion and engagement set forth in the MFA’s Strategic Plan. This is the last exhibition in a series of three funded by the Henry Luce Foundation that uses understudied works from the MFA’s collection to address critical themes in American art and the formation of modern American identities.

Generously supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Paper Stories, Layered Dreams: The Art of Ekua Holmes

Herb Ritts Gallery and Clementine Brown Gallery
February 27–October 17, 2021

A lifelong resident of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Ekua Holmes (born 1955) is an artist and community activist whose body of work explores themes of childhood, family bonds, memory and resilience. This exhibition focuses on her award-winning children’s book illustrations—vibrant collages revealing stories of self-determination, love and community that reflect the artist’s distinctive vision and commitment to Black imagery. More than 30 works on view include original illustrations from Holmes’s published book projects: Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (2015) by Carole Boston Weatherford, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets (2017) by Kwame Alexander and the recently released Black Is a Rainbow Color (2020) by Angela Joy. The exhibition also offers a sneak peek at Holmes’ illustrations for forthcoming projects—Saving American Beach (2021) by Heidi Tyline King and Dream Street (2021), co-authored by Holmes and her cousin Tricia Elam Walker—as well as a selection of her independent work, including portrait installation pieces.

Sponsored by Citizens.

Current Exhibitions

Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera

Herb Ritts Gallery
through January 9, 2021

This exhibition is the first to explore autobiography in the work of Elsa Dorfman (1937–2020), a beloved Cambridge photographer known for her large-format commissioned portraits. Working with a 200-pound, 20 x 24 Polaroid camera, one of only a few in existence, Dorfman photographed friends, artists and celebrities, all with disarming informality. Bringing together a selection of 20 x 24 self-portraits made since 1980, Elsa Dorfman: Me and My Camera looks at the artist’s life through her work. Intimate photographs of Dorfman with her son, Isaac, and her husband, lawyer Harvey Silverglate, reveal the family’s close bond. Self-portraits of the artist with her camera show the delight she took in the medium. Some of the photographs show the artist with a bundle of black balloons. These works, taken on Dorfman’s birthday, form an ironic chronicle of the process of aging. The exhibition also includes a group of smaller black-and-white photographs from the landmark 1974 photobook Elsa’s Housebook: A Woman’s Photojournal, which celebrate the circle of friends who visited Dorfman at her home near Harvard Square in the 1970s, including Allen Ginsberg and a host of other writers. Like all of Dorfman’s work, the photographs in this exhibition radiate warmth, inviting visitors into the intimate moments of an extraordinary life.

Supported by Abigail Congdon and Joseph Azrack, and Kathy Metcalfe and Lang Wheeler.

Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper

Clementine Brown Gallery
through January 9, 2021

Featuring approximately 60 works from the turn of the 20th century to today, Personal Space: Self-Portraits on Paper presents visitors with a sampling of self-portraiture’s evolution over a century, and hints at where the genre might go in the future. Traditional self-portraits by major artists like Käthe Kollwitz and Jim Dine are presented alongside experiments in the genre, such as Robert Rauschenberg’s Booster (1967), a monumental lithograph that uses X-rays of the artist’s own body. Works by younger generations of artists serve to broaden, subvert, and reinvent the notion of self-portraiture. Willie Cole’s Man Spirit Mask (1991) uses the household iron as a symbol to suggest domestic servitude, the branding of slaves, and the shape of African masks; in an untitled lithograph by Kiki Smith (1990), Xerox transfers of the artist’s tangled hair become a Pollock-like abstraction; and Glenn Ligon’s print series Runaways (1993) mimics the tone of 19th-century broadsides that advertised runaway slaves, substituting descriptions of Ligon written by his friends to form a kind of composite self-portrait. A newly acquired highlight is Balding (2017), a set of 21 meticulously rendered drawings by SMFA graduate Cobi Moules, in which the artist— a trans man—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.

Supported by the Susan G. Kohn and Harry Kohn, Jr. Fund for Contemporary Prints. 

Cézanne: In and Out of Time

Lorna and Robert Rosenberg Gallery
through February 28, 2021

The landscapes of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) seem impossible to enter, his still lifes tilt at dizzying angles, and the sitters in his portraits withhold attention. Though he was a peer of the Impressionists, sometimes participating in their exhibitions and working alongside them, Cézanne’s vision and art depart from theirs in ways both subtle and startling. Cézanne: In and Out of Time looks at this trailblazing artist and considers what sets him apart, placing 12 of his paintings—including six private loans on view at the MFA for the first time—in conversation with works by Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and other contemporaries.

Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression

Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (multiple galleries)
through February 28, 2021

Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression was organized to mark the occasion of the MFA’s 150th anniversary in 2020, as a birthday gift from the Museum to the City of Boston. For the first time in a generation, the MFA brings together all 35 of its paintings by Claude Monet (1840–1926), inviting visitors to immerse themselves in his work, from the serenity of the artist’s garden at Giverny to the majesty of the Rouen Cathedral. The exhibition also 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 inspired him.

Sponsored by Bank of America and UNIQLO USA. Additional support from an Anonymous Donor in memory of Bob Henderson, the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates Tribute Fund and Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Cordover Exhibition Fund, the Alexander M. Levine and Dr. Rosemarie D. Bria-Levine Exhibition Fund, and an Anonymous Funder. Media partner is WCVB Channel 5.

Community Arts Initiative: Exchange Codes

Edward H. Linde Gallery
through April 11, 2021

Over a seven-month period, young artists from the Museum’s 10 Community Arts Initiative (CAI) partners in the Boston area collaborated with artist Sarah Pollman to create a large-scale, wall-hung relief sculpture that charts global exchange pathways of the goods, services and ideas of artists, proposing a linked history of a material past. The sculpture’s component parts, made by the young artists, are joined together to form a new whole, its shapes and underlying topography referencing a map. By introducing visiting student artists to the concepts of intersectionality and inclusivity, Exchange Codes invites visitors to celebrate world cultures and acknowledge simultaneous differences and common threads. Pollman, whose work merges art and art history, led the children in close observation of artworks in the MFA’s collection to find visual, cultural and physical similarities between objects produced on different parts of the globe. The students then used their understanding of how art history is a result of global trade to make the individual parts of the relief sculpture, the whole of which collapses geographic boundaries and imagines a truly interconnected world. The relief sculpture is paired with a map of the trade routes originally responsible for the global exchanges. A selection of objects from across the MFA’s collections that resonate strongly with this project and its explorations is also on display.

Exchange Codes marks the 15th year of the Community Arts Initiative, through which the Museum partners with community organizations to introduce kids ages 6 to 12 to the MFA’s collections and the art-making process. For this exhibition, through the CAI, the Museum is proud to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester; the West End House Boys and Girls Club of Allston-Brighton; United South End Settlements; Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center; Vine Street Community Center; and five Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston located in Blue Hill, Charlestown, Chelsea, Roxbury, and South Boston.

The Community Arts Initiative is generously supported by the Linde Family Foundation.

Women Take the Floor

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.

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation

Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
through May 16, 2021

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation brings together more than 120 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and 11 of his peers—A-One, ERO, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Keith Haring, Kool Koor, LA2, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee and Toxic—all artists whose techniques share a conceptual approach rooted in early hip-hop practices. Their subversive abstractions generated a new style all their own, giving rise to the insurgent “post-graffiti” movement in American art and catalyzing the rise of hip-hop and street art as globally dominant phenomena. Writing the Future illuminates this unprecedented fusion of creative energies and its defiance of longstanding class and racial divisions in 1980s New York City as these artists demanded—and commanded—the attention not only of the art establishment, but of the world at large.

Sponsored by Bank of America. Additional support is provided by the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, the Darwin Cordoba Fund, the Amy and Jonathan Poorvu Fund for the Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Sculpture, and the Museum Council Special Exhibition Fund.

Black Histories, Black Futures

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.

Supported by Robert and Pamela Adams, Robert Ellis Alan, and the Terrell Family Foundation.