The new MFA Art of the Americas wing, ten years in the making, opened to museum members last weekend. The wing enables the Museum to showcase more than 5,000 works from the Americas, more than doubling the number previously on view. RainyDayMagazine was on hand for the FirstLook.
“The new galleries allow us to present our collections in a variety of ways that hightlight different periods, cultures, styles, artists, and themes,” said Elliot Bostwick Davis, the John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the MFA, who led the department’s curatorial staff in the planning and installation of the Museum’s new wing. “We hope visitors will discover a range of objects that speak to the breadth, richness, and diversity of artistic expression emanating from the United States and, more broadly, from the Americas.”
The new wing’s galleries are organized on four levels according to culture, period, region, style, theme, artist, and maker, reflecting a broad range of art from all of the Americas. Many galleries feature walls adorned in rich period colors, sumptuous brocades, and carpeting and wallpapers inspired by 18th and 19th century designs.
- Level Lower Ground: Ancient American, Native American, 17th Century, and Maritime Art
- Level 1: 18th Century Art of the Colonial Americas and Early 19th Century Art
- Level 2: 19th Century and Early 20th Century Art
- Level 3: 20th Century Art through the mid-1980s
Every level features core galleries in the center, braced by supporting galleries on either side and beyond in the pavilions. All of these galleries invite visitors to look, wander, and journey through time.
The wall-size painting, Passage of the Delaware (1819), by Thomas Sully serves as a focal point of the Kristin and Roger Servison Gallery. Many of the art and objects defining a new nation are displayed in this space. It was a time of rapid growth. The nation’s population rose from about four million in 1790 to more than twelve million by 1830. With the 1803 purchase fo the Louisiana territory from France, the country doubled in size. The country was changing and American painting changed as well. Portraiture still dominated, but these years saw the emergence of grand paintings on historical themes, often depicting dramatic events and major figures of the Revolution.
In the Ruth and Carl j. Shapiro gallery are more than 25 paintings, watercolors, and drawing by the artist, including his iconic work, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, paired with the two large Japanese-style vases pictured in the painting. We first saw this pairing in 2006 and are thrilled to see that the pieces are featured in this gallery. On view for the first time in the Asesthetic Movement gallery is the stained-glass window, Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl, by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The Penny and Jeff Vinik Gallery explores the ambition of American artists to compete on an international stage. A large area is devoted to the American experience in Italy. Arranged in salon style with paintings stacked from the floor to ceiling , and featuring burgundy damask-covered walls, the gallery also highlights works by American artists under the spell of France. Another section is devoted to several generations of American artists who depicted Niagara Falls, the foremost symbol of the New World during the formative decades of landscape painting.
The glass walkways on the upper levels of the wing offer commanding views of Boston. Works of art have been placed along these walkways on various levels of the wing, including Young Columbus by Giulio Monteverde on Level 1, Young Diana (1923) by Anna Hyatt Huntington and Bacchante and Infant Faun (1893, cast in 1901) by Frederick MacMonnies on Level 2, and Venus (1977-78) by Fernando Botero on Level 3.
The Joyce and Edward Linde Gallery celebrates the rich and varied imagination of American Folk Art. On display are a range of creative works by artists and artisans, some named, some not. Weather vanes, painted furniture, whimsical sculptures and quilts…everyday objects transformed into works of art.
Musical instruments first became a part of the Museum’s collection in 1917. Instruments from around the world are included in the MFA’s holdings. Rare and early keyboard, flutes, rattles, and many types of guitars are on display. The department has also increased its focus on instruments manufactured in America, especially from New England.
In the Barbara and Theodore Alfond Gallery are works by two of the celebrated masters of late 19th-century American painting, Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. The MFA has an unsurpassed collection of the Boston-born Homer. The iconic Fog Warningsis prominently displayed along with a select group of his rarely seen masterworks in watercolor.
At the top level is the Saundra B. and William H. Lane Gallery. This large central gallery presents a range of artists working in North and South America from about 1940 throught the mid 1970s in a variety of styles ranging from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. Sculptures, jewelry, ceramic works complement the paintings in ths space flooded with natural light.
The Museum is opening two new shops in conjunction with the debut of the Art of the Americas Wing. The Huntington Shop, is a boutique showcasing creative fashions, jewelry, and home decor. Many of the items are by craftsman and designers whose works are new to the MFA. The Gallery Shop, located next to the new Ann and Graham Gund Gallery of the Shapiro Family Courtyard, features items related to the Gund Gallery exhibitions on view. We’ll give you a better look at that Shop when we review the Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition exhibition.
We have only given you the tiniest of a glimpse of the new Art of the Americas wing. The galleris will officially open to the public this Saturday November 20, when admission to the Museum will be waved for the day. The MFA has all kinds of activities, special events, and talks planned for the day. If you are in the area, we urge you to go and help the MFA celebrate the opening of this wonderful cultural addition to the city of Boston.