Art Travels: MFA Boston

Art Travels

I have been lucky to travel a great deal the past few months and have greatly enjoyed lots of museums for the first time. I had one of the best experiences at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. I currently spend a good deal of time using their digital resources and collections search in my own provenance research, so it was high on my list of places to visit.

Of most interest to me was the way the MFA Boston is attentive to itself as an institution. A few of the galleries had been converted in to open conservation labs and a great deal of the labels spoke to collecting practices, conservation, and curatorial choices. Their Juno label spoke of the work’s life standing in the Brandegee family farm in Brookline, Massachusetts and the difficulties in restoring it. The Museum drilled a 6 foot hold in to the middle of her to place a support dowel.

I also greatly enjoyed seeing Mary Cassatt’s pastel box and another iteration of Tara Donovan’s styrofoam cup sculpture. I have done some provenance research on the BMA’s Cassatt sketch… it is the sort of work that makes you feel more strongly about an artist-for better or worse. I have written and spoken quite a bit on Donovan’s styrofoam cup sculptures and knew of the MFA iteration. It is in slightly better condition than ours and much larger. It dominates the space it hangs in. I was very glad to see it in person.

I had an incredible experience in the Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery-see bottom image. The power of museums lies in the juxtaposition of objects, and the curators nailed this corner of the room. It was visual decadence to see van Gogh’s Lullaby: Madame Augustine Roulin Rocking a Cradle (La Berceuse) and Renoir’s Dance at Bougival behind Rodin’s Eternal Springtime. I kept circling back to this corner to look at how the works formally and conceptually functioned together.

I knew this institution was large, but I wasn’t quite ready for just how large. I couldn’t get through the entire museum before the dreaded Museum Fatigue set in, so I look forward to returning.