MFA – Museum of Fine Arts – Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massaschusetts, also known as MFA, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. The museum is particularly renowned for its collections of American, European old masters, and French Impressionist art.
History and architecture
The museum was opened to the public on July 4, 1876, at Opley Square with a collection of 5,600 artworks.
The collection grew so much in the following decades that, in 1909, the institution moved to a new, larger neoclassic-style building designed by American architect Guy Lowell. Afterward, the MFA’s home has been repeatedly enlarged and renovated. In 1915 with the construction of the Evans Wing for Paintings, and in 1928 with that of the Decorative Arts Wing, both designed by Lowell.
In 1970, the new George Robert White Wing was completed after a design by Hugh Stubbins. The West Wing, designed by I.M. Pei, was opened in 1981.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in a 1920s postcard; image courtesy of the Boston Public Library
MFA, south facade on Huntington Avenue; photo: Yarian
Finally, the most important expansion project in the museum’s history was completed in 2010, after a design by British architectural firm Foster + Partners, led by Lord Norman Foster.
The new masterplan comprised the restoration of Lowell’s buildings, a general redesign of the circulation inside the museum, a new landscaping of the green spaces surrounding the complex, and the construction of an array of new spaces which included a new information center, the Art of the Americas Wing, a cafe, and a new special exhibition gallery. Arranged on four floors and encompassing 53 galleries, the Art of the Americas Wing is accommodated in the so-called crystal spine, an impressive 21-meter-high glazed space located in the heart of the museum complex.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, renovation masterplan, sketch; image courtesy of Foster + Partners
MFA Boston, south, east, and north elevations; images courtesy of Foster + Partners
Exterior view of the Foster expansion; photo: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
The “Crystal spine”; photo: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
Comprising some 500,000 pieces of fine and applied arts, the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston spans a broad range of subjects and a period of over 8,000 years; the collection is divided into 11 sections.
Art of the Americas includes works dating from the Pre-Columbian era to the second half of the 20th century.
Art of Europe features thousands of artworks dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century and presents, along with decorative art objects and furniture, paintings and sculptures by artists such as Duccio Da Buonisegna, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, El Greco, Francisco Goya, William Turner, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh.
Art of Asia is composed of pieces of fine and decorative arts from Japan, China, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, and the Islamic world.
Art of the Ancient World comprises thousands of artifacts from the Ancient Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire, and the ancient Near East dating from 6,500 BC to 600 AD.
The Contemporary Art collection features works by Pablo Picasso, Alex Katz, Anish Kapoor, Ellsworth Kelly, Pierpaolo Calzolari, Lucien Freud, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, Glenn Ligon, Doris Salcedo, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, Anselm Kiefer, and Takashi Murakami, among others.
The MFA also holds remarkable collections of Photography, Prints and Drawings, Art of Africa and Oceania, Musical Instruments, Textiles and Fashion, and Jewelry.
MFA, interior views; photos: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
MFA, interior view; photo: Ben Mason
The Arts of Korea room in the Asian Art exhibition; photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Activities and services to the public
The Museum of Fine Arts has a comprehensive program of special exhibitions, educational courses, film screenings, lectures, live performances and music concerts, art workshops, and special events.
The museum’s complex, which is accessible to physically impaired persons, includes two auditoriums, a Japanese garden, three shops, a restaurant, two cafes, and a cafeteria.
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, ground floor plan and transverse section; images courtesy of Foster + Partners
Photos courtesy of Foster + Partners
The grand stair of the MFA; photo: Bill Damon
Views of the cafe in the ‘jewel box’ space; photos: Jim Forest (up), and courtesy of Foster + partners (down)
View of a room in the Contemporary Art gallery; photo Nigel Young / Foster + Partners
Vincent van Gogh, Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888, oil on canvas; Gift of Robert Treat Pain, 2nd. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Tenshin-en Japanese Garden at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Cover image; photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston