New Americas wing opens at Boston's MFA
MFA's new Art of the Americas wing boosts the field of American art, which has often been seen as a poor cousin to Europe.
Is it the last of an art museum building boom that began in the affluent 1990s? Or is it state of the art for a 21st-century facility?Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The Art of the Americas Wing at the MFA
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The new $504 million Art of the Americas wing of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is likely both. And a boon to the study of the art and culture created in the “New World,” from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, as well.
“This is the biggest project in American art and culture being undertaken by any major American institution at the moment,” says Malcolm Rogers, the MFA’s director.
The new wing, which aims to tell the story of the arts of the entire Americas, not just the United States, features 53 galleries, including nine period rooms, which combine furniture, silver, textiles, ceramics, paintings, and other objects in a single room.
The wing, which opens to the public Nov. 20, adds 121,307 square feet to the museum, bumping up its size from 483,447 square feet to 616,937. More than 5,000 works will be on display, more than double the number of pieces from the Americas previously on display.
The fund raising, largely gathered from wealthy patrons before the stock market swoon of 2008, was itself an impressive feat.
“It’s a huge project,” says Ford W. Bell, president of the American Association of Museums in Washington D.C. It comes as a coda to a spurt of museum building between 1993 and 2005, when museum construction grew at three times the rate of all construction, he says.
It’s also a boost to the field of American art, which has sometimes been seen as a poor cousin to Europe, says Betsy Broun, the Margaret and Terry Stent director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
“As recently as the 1990s, Harvard didn’t teach American art history. It was not yet accepted into the ultimate Ivy League school,” Ms. Broun says. “It was long thought to be merely imitative of Europe. Not really a worthy subject in its own right.”
That perception is changing.
“Many museums are rethinking and re-presenting, and allocating more space for their American collections,” she says. “The MFA has a truly magnificent collection of American art from pre-Columbian times to the present. This is an opportunity to showcase it in much greater depth than ever before.”
Often known for works by artists from the United States, such as the silversmith and Revolutionary War patriot Paul Revere and painters John Singleton Copley, Childe Hassan, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent, the new wing gives new attention to the rest of the Americas.