Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
|Viewpoints: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection||August 10–December 14, 2019|
|Women Take the Floor||September 13, 2019–May 3, 2021|
|Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Family and Friends||September 14, 2019–August 9, 2020|
|Ancient Nubia Now||October 13, 2019–January 20, 2020|
|Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits||March 1–May 25, 2020|
|Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris||through August 4, 2019|
|Gender Bending Fashion||through August 25, 2019|
|Bouchra Khalili: Poets and Witnesses||through August 25, 2019|
|Georgie Friedman: Fragments of Antarctica||through September 15, 2019|
|Community Arts Initiative: Mindful Mandalas||through October 14, 2019|
|Kay Nielsen's Enchanted Vision: The Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection||through January 20, 2020|
|Make Believe||through January 20, 2020|
|Hyman Bloom: Matters of Life and Death||through February 23, 2020|
|Mural: Jackson Pollock | Katharina Grosse||through February 23, 2020|
|Collecting Stories: A Mid-Century Experiment||through March 8, 2020|
|Boston Made: Arts and Crafts Jewelry and Metalwork||through March 29, 2020|
|Conservation in Action: Japanese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light||through June 30, 2020|
|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
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
August 10–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.
Art of the Americas Wing (multiple galleries)
September 13, 2019–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 250 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. The central space, “The Female Gaze: Women Depicting Women,” represents the diversity of approaches women have taken in depicting one another and features celebrated paintings such as Frida Kahlo’s Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia) and Alice Neel’s Linda Nochlin and Daisy. “Beyond the Loom: Fiber as Sculpture” highlights early pioneers of fiber art—Lenore Tawney, Ruth Asawa, Sheila Hicks and Olga de Amaral—who radically redefined textiles in the 1960s and 1970s as sculpture. A second rotation in the same gallery, “Subversive Threads” (opening May 2020), will focus on how contemporary artists have used textiles to challenge notions of identity, gender and politics. “No Man’s Land” is devoted to artists who reimagine the metaphoric possibilities of landscapes, often through the use of symbols that allude to female experiences. “Women, Art, and Design in the 1920s and 30s” features work made in a range of media by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Loïs Mailou Jones, Ruth Reeves and Maria Martinez in the decades following the campaign for women’s suffrage. Building on recent scholarship, “Women of Action” recognizes the contributions of Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning and others to the formation and expansion of action-style, or gestural painting of the mid-20th century, movements typically credited to their male counterparts. Presented in two rotations, “Women Publish Women: The Print Boom” celebrates three entrepreneurs who founded printmaking workshops in the late 1950s and 1960s and played an underappreciated role in the revitalization of American printmaking: Tatyana Grosman of Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), June Wayne of Tamarind Lithography and Kathan Brown of Crown Point Press. Finally, “Women and Abstraction at Mid-Century” takes an expansive look at abstraction, exploring how women artists reshaped the natural world for expressive purposes in a wide range of media including paintings, prints, textiles, ceramics, furniture and jewelry.
Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Family and Friends
Asian Paintings Gallery
September 14, 2019–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.
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
October 13, 2019–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.
Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits
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 mature work. They 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 onwards, who made self-portraiture a recurring feature of their practice. The exhibition will assemble around 50 paintings, prints and drawings spanning his entire career. Organized by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, Lucian Freud: The Self Portraits will be the first exhibition in Boston dedicated to the work of Freud.
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
through August 4, 2019
A new culture of entertainment exploded in Paris in the late 19th century, a moment immortalized in evocative posters, prints and paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901). This exhibition of nearly 200 works explores the artist’s extraordinary attention to the stars of Montmartre, the heart of the city’s bohemian nightlife. Using bold colors and radical compositions, Lautrec distilled the defining gestures, costumes and expressions of the celebrities of the day—many of them his friends—into instantly recognizable images. His incisive depictions of performers—including cabaret stars Yvette Guilbert and Aristide Bruant, dancers Jane Avril and Loïe Fuller, and actress Marcelle Lender—contributed to their fame, distributed through prints and posters to an eager audience. Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris examines how Lautrec pushed his art in new directions to portray the celebrity-mad culture of his time, which was equally fascinated, much like today, with the performers’ personal lives as with the roles they played. In addition to Lautrec’s formal innovations, thematic sections highlight the changing social and artistic landscapes of 19th-century Paris and the contemporary importance of prints and posters. The exhibition also incorporates work by Lautrec’s contemporaries Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and Pierre Bonnard, as well as period films and music. A collaboration between the MFA and the Boston Public Library, Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris draws on both institutions’ rich collections of graphic works by the artist and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue produced by MFA Publications. “Toulouse-Lautrec and the Stars of Paris” is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Boston Public Library. Sponsored by Encore Boston Harbor. Generously supported by The Boston Foundation. Additional support from the great-grandchildren of Albert H. Wiggin, the Cordover Exhibition Fund, and anonymous funders.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (multiple galleries)
through August 25, 2019
Gender Bending Fashion looks across more than 100 years of individuals disrupting, blurring and seeking to transcend a traditional division between men’s and women’s clothing. The exhibition presents the work of groundbreaking contemporary designers—including Rad Hourani, Rei Kawakubo (for Comme des Garçons), Alessandro Michele (for Gucci), Walé Oyéjidé (for Ikiré Jones), Christian Siriano, Alejandro Gómez Palomo and Alessandro Trincone—alongside dozens of 20th-century garments from the MFA’s collection. More than simply documenting styles and trends, Gender Bending Fashion also explores how the garments on view can speak broadly to societal shifts across the past century, including changing gender roles; ongoing efforts toward LGBTQIA+ rights and racial equality; and the rise of social media as a powerful tool for self-expression. Throughout the galleries, individual stories of designers and wearers—many of them celebrities, performers and fashion influencers—emerge, touching on issues of gender identity and expression, sexuality, race, class, pop culture, activism, social justice and more. These topics are further explored through the perspectives of local Bostonians, primarily sourced through Instagram, whose experiences are documented in a digital album within the exhibition. “Gender Bending Fashion” is generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, the Fashion Council, and The Coby Foundation. Additional support provided by the Museum Council Special Exhibition Fund. Media sponsor is Boston magazine. Hotel Partner is Mandarin Oriental, Boston. Motion graphics projections provided by Black Math.
Richard and Nancy Lubin Gallery
through August 25, 2019
Charting the essential connection between poetry and activism, this exhibition of works by Berlin-based artist Bouchra Khalili (born Morocco, 1975) bridges discourses of resistance from the 1960s to the present. Making its U.S. debut at the MFA, Khalili’s Twenty-Two Hours (2018) is a testament to her deep research into the Black Panther Party in New England and their unexpected ally, the French poet Jean Genet. In 1970, Genet toured the U.S. in support of the Panthers, delivering his first speech in Cambridge, Massachusetts, nearby where Khalili carried out a recent fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study at Harvard University. In Twenty-Two Hours, two young Bostonians, Quiana Pontes and Vanessa Silva, perform on camera in Cambridge, combining fragments of images, sounds, memories and film footage to retell the story of Genet’s visit and reflect on the civic poet as a witness to history. A former member of the Black Panther Party involved in organizing Genet’s East Coast tour, Doug Miranda, recounts his involvement with Genet and reflects on his own history as an activist. Additionally, the exhibition marks the worldwide debut of Khalili’s new short film The Typographer (2019), which depicts a letterpress that typesets the last sentence Genet wrote during his lifetime. Displayed alongside a take-away newsprint publication on Khalili’s practice and research into the Panthers, the film highlights the essential role of the printed word in disseminating revolutionary ideas. Together, the exhibition’s three components act as a meditation on the inter-generational transmission of history and the role of international solidarity in the continued struggle for equality.
Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria
through September 15, 2019
Georgie Friedman (born 1974) stages site-specific, immersive installations that evoke the beauty of the natural world and point to the uncertain future of a warming planet. Through explorations of man-made climate change, her artwork addresses the effects of a global crisis on one of the most fragile landscapes on Earth. Friedman received a 2017 Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and voyaged to the Antarctic Peninsula to gain first-hand experience documenting the desolate beauty of the polar region. Sketches, video footage and photographs of the Peninsula that Friedman produced during her expedition are all integral components of this exhibition. A two-channel video piece, featuring gigantic icebergs floating out to sea, pairs incongruous seascapes to create a sense of unsteady footing and a desire to level the horizon. Friedman’s photographic typology of singular icebergs—from the enormous and seemingly insurmountable to the rapidly fleeting—challenges our sense of scale. Her constructed panoramic views present a fragmented relationship with the natural world, moving from a large-scale perspective towards an increasingly intimate view of the volcanic mountains, glaciers, icebergs and physical remains of the region. Across the gallery, kinetic sculptures that reference the shape of icebergs are suspended from above. The thin metal sculptures depict both the visible portions of the icebergs and also the 90 percent of each iceberg that is typically submerged under the surface of the water. Visitors encounter the sculptures from below, inverting our typical vantage point and creating a challenging new perspective of the icescape. The exhibition presents fragments of a shrinking continent and raises questions about the need to document an ecology in peril. Georgie Friedman: Fragments of Antarctica invites visitors to reflect on their own relationship with the natural world—and consider an ice-bound landscape under threat by sweeping global changes.
Edward H. Linde Gallery
through October 14, 2019
Over a seven-month period, approximately 100 young artists from the MFA’s 10 Community Arts Initiative (CAI) partners in the Boston area collaborated with artist and educator Sneha Shrestha to create a wall mural inspired by mandalas, or graphic symbols used to aid in meditation, modeled after Japanese Star Mandalas from the Kamakura period. Inspired by cultural practices of her native Nepal, Shrestha’s Mindful Mandalas mural project invited children to process their thoughts and feelings with the goal of finding inner peace through reflection, meditation and the contemplation of selected artworks at the MFA, including Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (1905) and Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Compassion (early 12th century). Inspired by the process of close looking, the children then painted their own mandalas. Mindful Mandalas presents the young artists' work mounted within three large-scale mandalas, each 12 feet tall and painted by Shrestha. The exhibition also features related contemporary works from the MFA’s collection, as well as a video documenting the creation of the mandalas. This installation marks the 14th 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.