The MFA is one of the first encyclopedic museums in the US to fully integrate performance art into its collection, exhibitions, and programs. Performance art at the MFA features a range of works by international, national and local artists, and encompasses a spectrum of live and participatory experiences, such as performances that unfold in the Museum’s galleries and engage with its collection, works that form part of cross-media contemporary art exhibitions, and interventions that appear in unexpected spaces inside the Museum or outdoors.

Since the opening of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art in 2011, the MFA has commissioned dozens of performance artworks and organized multi-artist, one-day performance art exhibitions, including Odd Spaces and Onto Objects: Performances by Patty Chang & Jeffery Gibson. These foundational, artist-driven projects questioned the role of performance art in a museum environment and reframed visitor’s experiences of objects in the MFA’s encyclopedic collection.

The MFA has likewise presented a growing number of contemporary exhibitions across media that incorporate performance art into their checklists, including: Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Shinique Smith: BRIGHT MATTER, Conversation Piece, Crafted: Objects in Flux.

Key acquisitions related to performance art include Amalia Pica’s Now Speak!, Pedro Reyes’ Colloquium and Lee Mingwei’s Sonic Blossom. A 2014 presentation of Joan Jonas’ Reanimation, her first major work performed in Boston, lead to the acquisition of a related installation, Ice Drawing Sculpture.

More information and video documentation of select performance artworks can be viewed below through this chronological archive of past presentations.


In This Series

Faith Johnson, Messages, 2011

Performance Art

Faith Johnson: Messages
September 17, 2011September 18, 2011
7:00 pm12:00 am

Johnson conducts an interactive performance called “Messages.”

Ann Carlson, Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore, 2011

Performance Art

Ann Carlson
September 17, 2011September 18, 2011
7:00 pm5:00 pm

Performance art: Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore

Amanda Coogan, The Passing, 2011

Performance Art

Amanda Coogan: The Passing
September 17, 2011September 18, 2011
7:00 pm7:00 pm

Performance art that highlights the strength of the human spirit

Teresa Margolles, The Keys to the City

Performance Art

Teresa Margolles
September 18, 2011
11:00 am4:00 pm

Performance art that provides insight into life on the US-Mexico border

Performance Art

Raphael Montañez Ortíz
March 27, 2013
7:00 pm9:00 pm

Engage in a new performance, followed by screenings of rarely seen works

Performance Art

Odd Spaces
May 15, 2013
11:00 am8:30 pm

Performance art activates non-traditional spaces for exhibiting art at the Museum

Performance Art

Pedro Reyes: Pharmasphere
July 19, 2013
7:00 pm8:00 pm

Pedro Reyes presents a new performance at the MFA, Pharmasphere

Performance Art

Amalia Pica: Now, Speak!
January 20, 2014
9:00 am3:45 pm

Hear excerpts of historically significant speeches

Performance Art

Onto Objects: Performances by Patty Chang & Jeff Gibson
January 29, 2014
6:00 pm7:30 pm

Performance art exhibition with works by Patty Chang & Jeff Gibson

Performance Art

Lázaro Saavedra: Egocentrismo funerario (Funerary Egocentrism)
May 26, 2014
10:00 am1:00 pm

The artist lies in state in a coffin, parodying the “death of the artist.”


Performance Art

Nascimento/Lovera: Canción para Banda Militar (Song for a Military Band)
May 26, 2014
3:00 pm3:45 pm

Performance exploring the intersection of civic and military voices

Regina José Galindo, Big Bang, 2014. Performance artwork in the exhibition Permission To Be Global/Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection. Photography by Ricardo De Lima.

Performance Art

Regina José Galindo: Big Bang
June 25, 2014
6:00 pm8:00 pm

Regina José Galindo performs a new artwork for the MFA



Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.