After 11 years of preparation, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston celebrated the opening of their new $345 million Art of the Americas wing on Saturday November 20th. Admission to the new area was free to the public, and the museum was packed with visitors lined out the door.
Fifty-three new galleries are now open in the new wing devoted North, South and Central American art from the Pre-Columbian era through the third quarter of the twentieth century, adding 133,491 square feet to the museum’s footprint, a 28 percent increase.
The new wing highlight’s the city’s central role in American history. Boston’s MFA was founded in 1870 and has been expanding ever since.
Many of the wing’s galleries are dedicated to individual artists or artistic movements including Native North American art, African-American artists, the colonial portraiture
of John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart, silverware of Paul Revere, the Hudson River School of landscape painting, photography, and works by John Singer Sargent.
The new wing places colonial American culture in the same realm as those of other peoples inhabiting the Americas prior to the colonization, making quite the statement. Portraits of George Washington crossing the Delaware and standing next to a horse’s rear end, Colonial wing chairs, tea sets, quilts, a bust of Thomas Jefferson, and antique claw-foot cabinets reside in the same section of the museum as Maya ceramics.
Just for the occasion, Thomas Sully’s “The Passage of the Delaware” was unrolled, stretched, retouched and reframed in its original frame which had been in storage. The painting is 17 feet by 12 feet and weighs 1,000 pounds; understandably, the museum had not been able to properly displace the Revolutionary-era masterpiece before the new renovations. The piece was given a center spot in the new wing.
The works themselves aren’t the only new spectacular additions to the museum. The physical structure added onto the building has transformed the façade of Boston’s MFA. The new Shapiro Family Courtyard creates a whole new 12,184 square foot social space within the museum. It’s composed almost entirely of glass and has 63-foot-high ceilings.
If you didn’t already have an excuse to visit the MFA in Boston, the new architectural renovations and artistic acquisitions are well worth a trip to our nation’s Cradle of Liberty.