Art of the Americas wing at the MFA


Claudio Bravo
"Vanitas", 1981
Oil on canvas, 79 x 95 inches (200 x 240 cm)
Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


I took some time off from the studio this afternoon to visit the new Art of the Americas wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This was my first visit to the wing; I'd actually been to the museum shortly after the addition was open to the public, but I was there to see some other specific pieces, so didn't make it in.

My first impression is generally quite favorable. I spent about 3 hours there, and did see all of the galleries, though admittedly the final several rooms were just quick walk-throughs (museum fatigue finally got to me).

The special exhibit that I saw first was a collection of Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture. I tend to think of his work as eye candy, but man... what eye candy.

I probably did my most concentrated looking in the pre-Columbian galleries. There are several stunning large burial urns, some really exquisite pottery (a few of the Mayan painted vases seemed comparable to the very best Greek pottery pieces), and a surprisingly large collection of gold jewelry and statuary. I had not seen most of this collection before, so it was a really welcome sight for me.

Decorative arts are really heavily represented in this new wing; some of which bored me to tears, but others really got my juices flowing. For some reason I got really turned on by nearly every single piece of art deco and modernist silver coffee/tea service... and there were several beautiful sets.

There are a number of well-constructed galleries that hold the MFA's large collection of Sargents, Heades, Lanes, Homers, Bierstadts, etc. I'd seen a lot of Kensett's works before, but apparently saw them with new eyes today, as I really enjoyed them and would like to see more. I also look forward to spending some more time with the Copleys - there is an entire gallery devoted to him.

For me, the real rockstar painting was the large Claudio Bravo piece pictured above. He's pretty high up on my list of artists to delve into deeply. Until I actually do, I welcome the chance to see any piece of his I can. As a general rule, they make my jaw drop to the floor. His light is utterly perfect...

Architecturally, the new wing is for the most part beautiful and essentially unobtrusive. The central atrium seems a little too cavernous, and I felt that they really had not thought out how to treat that space. The galleries themselves, however, do seem to show off the collections to very good effect. I wouldn't second-guess the museum, of course, but I was well aware that this new addition had cost half a billion dollars. It's worth at least asking whether this is in fact the best use of the museum's resources.

That said, I give it 4.5 brushes out of 5, and it goes without saying that I will visit again.

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