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Boston: Art Museums

by Kurt Cole Eidsvig, Boston Visual Arts blogger

As the city is currently in the middle of a major artistic revival, there is no better time than now to appreciate the many museums and galleries that Boston has to offer. Just as the city has been transformed through the Big Dig, with the Rose Kennedy Greenway becoming a public garden and sculpture park and the Financial District and West End now finally united with the North End and Seaport District, the major museums in town have similarly made significant efforts to create new space, expand, and reach out to an ever-widening audience.

In 2010 The Museum of Fine Arts opened its Art of the Americas Wing, part of a $100 million dollar expansion effort which created 120,000 square feet of space and allowed for the display of 5,000 additional works from the MFA’s collections. Further, in 2011, the museum opened the doors of the new Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. An 80,000 square foot space housing 250 works, the new wing represents the MFA’s ambition to create a bridge from its current collection up through contemporary art.

New opportunities for viewing contemporary works are also made possible by the huge new facility the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) created on the waterfront in the Seaport District in 2006. The first new museum in Boston in over 100 years, the wide open space has allowed the ICA to begin amassing an exciting permanent collection. Great acquisitions from artists like Cornelia Parker, Cindy Sherman and Philip-Lorca diCorcia, have already been made. Combine this with exciting exhibitions like Shepard Fairey’s first solo show, or Jenny Holzer’s projection work, and the new ICA has clearly found a new home in Boston.

Combine these developments with other ongoing, noteworthy events – like the plans underway for a major expansion at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the successful preservation of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis, and the deCordova under new leadership with great new programs and exhibitions – and it is surely an incredibly exciting time to enjoy the visual arts in Boston. With an active art community that spans from Fort Point through the South End and Jamaica Plain, along with numerous galleries and university museums throughout the city, and there are numerous options, from antiquity to the present day, for audiences to enjoy.

Boston Art Museums: Art Museums Around Boston

Below are our Boston Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Boston Art.

Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, MA)

Located on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, 30 minutes north of Boston, the Addison Gallery’s collection of American art includes nearly 17,000 objects spanning the 18th century to the present. Created in 1931 by Thomas Cochran, the Addison is guided by his goal “to enrich permanently the lives of the students.” The gallery remains committed to serving the public through free admission and an education outreach program. ...more...

Boston Athenaeum

Since it opened in 1807, the Boston Athenaeum (BA) has been a major force in Boston’s rich cultural and intellectual life. Modeled after similar institutions in Liverpool in Great Britain, it is an independent membership library, with a collection of over 600,000 volumes available to its members and ample space for research. Membership is the best way to enjoy all that the BA has to offer; only the first floor and …more…

Boston Museum of Fine Arts (The MFA)

With installations of art ranging from ancient to modern, the MFA holds pieces geographically spanning Asia, Africa, Oceania, the Americas, and Europe; there’s indeed something for everyone. Not only is the permanent collection strong, but its rotating exhibits in the past have offered, and continue to provide, an enormous range of artists and movements: from Ansel Adams to David Hockney, from a special 2007 Summer of Love collection to a …more…

Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard Art Museums consists of three museums that formerly were physically separate: the Fogg Art Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. A new museum building designed by architect Renzo Piano will house all three museums in one facility. During the renovation, selected works from the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler collections are on display at the Sackler Museum. ...more...

Institute of Contemporary Art

Originally established as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936, the ICA is the city’s leading contemporary art institution. It presents contemporary art in all media, and also hosts educational programs to build appreciation for contemporary art. It is known for launching the careers of major contemporary artists, including Georges Braque, Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, Kara Walker, and Cindy Sherman.

The ICA continues its mission with its current showings and …more…

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (The Gardner)

Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband were avid art collectors whose collection contains more than 2,500 pieces, including European tapestries, furniture, mosaics, manuscripts, and paintings by Sargent, Degas, Raphael, and Matisse. She also designed the building and even hung the objects. Because of her will, very little has changed since her death in 1924. Resembling a Venetian Palace, the museum is centered on a Palazzo courtyard, home of the museum’s …more…

Worcester Art Museum (Worcester, MA)

Located in the heart of Massachusetts, the Worcester Art Museum has a 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints, drawings, and new media that spans over 5,000 years of art and culture. The institution, founded by Stephen Salisbury III “for the benefit of all the people,” first opened its doors in the spring of 1898, and today houses works of art representing more than 50 centuries of creativity.

Among …more…