OMFG: The new MFA

By GREG COOK  |  November 17, 2010

You can debate the importance of the 20th-century Boston Expressionist painters, who are represented by a Lone Hyman Bloom canvas. But except for a single György Kepes image, the MFA skips the most internationally celebrated contribution Boston and New England made to art of the past century: photography. Minor White, Harold Edgerton, Berenice Abbott, Nicholas Nixon, Frank Gohlke, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, Eugene Richards, Joel Meyerowitz, and Nan Goldin are in the history books and the MFA's collection, but not here. Davis says some of these folks will be included when the photo gallery is rotated in six months. Also, the MFA really should get a copy of Stanley Forman's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1976 photo of a white anti-desegregation protester spearing a black lawyer with an American flag on Boston's City Hall Plaza.

The ongoing revolution
The bundles of cash that have gone into the new construction are a declaration from local donors that they want Boston to be a world-class art town. But will our art world be just a service economy (our great museums), or a manufacturer (artists) as well? How we portray New England's past is not just a question of history — it's a question of whether our revolutionary past can be the inspiration and foundation for our future. Showing local art (without grading on a curve) makes the statement that just as what we did in the past matters, so does what we're doing now. The new wing frees up space for planned contemporary-art galleries in the West Wing, which by itself has more display space than the new ICA. Will all these additional galleries mean more room to include in the mix art made here?

The MFA is different from other American regional museums in that so much important art has been made in New England — from Stuart to Sargent to the New York Abstract Expressionists who summered here (Rothko, Hofmann, Gottlieb) to 20th-century photography. It makes a difference if, as is the case here, Edward Hopper, a New Yorker who long summered on Cape Cod, is represented by his New York scenes but none of his watercolors of Gloucester and Maine (which remain in MFA storage because of their delicacy, I'm told). In this college town, it's our loss to leave out the transient part of our art community. Why not claim any and all of the electricity that passes through here as ours, and use it to power us forward?

SLIDESHOW:Images from the MFA's new Art of the Americas wing.

READ:The Phoenix's editorial on Malcolm Rogers, the MFA's impresario.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Art,  More more >
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