The mission of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is to house and preserve its preeminent collections and to serve a wide variety of people through direct encounters with works of art. The Museum’s aim is to encourage inquiry and to heighten public understanding and appreciation of the visual world through increasing the standards of quality in collections, exhibitions, programs, research, and publications; assuming conservation as a primary responsibility; celebrating diverse cultures and welcoming new and broader constituencies; and creating educational opportunities for a wide range of visitors.
Founded in 1870, the Museum opened its doors to the public on July 4, 1876, the nation’s centennial. Originally built in Copley Square, the MFA was then home to 5,600 works of art. Over the next several years, the collection and number of visitors grew exponentially, and in 1909, the Museum moved to its current home on Huntington Avenue.
Today, the MFA’s encyclopedic collections are among the most comprehensive in the Western hemisphere. Nearly 500,000 works of art are organized into eight curatorial departments: Art of the Americas; Art of the Ancient World; Art of Asia, Oceania and Africa; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Musical Instruments; Prints, Drawings and Photographs; and Textiles and Fashion Arts.
The MFA strives to serve broad constituencies, including families, disadvantaged youth, students, educators, individuals with disabilities, and senior citizens, and is working to engage and celebrate the diverse communities of Greater Boston by connecting its collections to new and underrepresented audiences through a growing program of free Open Houses and cultural festivals. The MFA has an excellent record of providing engaging, varied, and accessible exhibitions and community programming reflecting the diversity of its audience.
Last year, the Museum welcomed 1.2 million local, national, and international visitors, exceeding an ambitious attendance forecast by 10%. An additional 4.2 million users accessed collections, exhibitions, and conservation information online, for free, at mfa.org. Nearly 230,000 people participated in more than 3,000 educational programs and events, including lectures, gallery talks, artist demonstrations, family programs, films, concerts, and studio art classes. Recent exhibition offerings have included In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11; Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott; Goya: Order and Disorder; Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty; Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition; Ori Gersht: History Repeating; Sacred Pages: Conversations about the Qur’an; Permission to be Global / Prácticas Globales: Latin American Art from the Ella Fotanals-Cisneros Collection; and She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World.
Each year, the MFA develops innovative exhibitions and complementary outreach programming. The exhibition “Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics – A Collaboration with Nobuo Tsuji and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ” (October 18, 2017 – April 1, 2018) for example, pairs contemporary work by Takashi Murakami, one of the most imaginative and important artists working today, with masterworks from the MFA’s renowned collection of Japanese art—among the greatest in the world. The exhibition reveals how Murakami’s contemporary vision is richly inflected by a dynamic conversation with the historical past, framed by a creative dialogue with the great Japanese art historian, Professor Nobuo Tsuji. Together, Murakami and Professor Tsuji have chosen the objects on view in the exhibition, including paintings and sculpture created by the artist in direct response to Japanese masterpieces from the MFA’s collection, such as Soga Shōhaku’s 36-foot-long Dragon and Clouds (1763), and the Heiji Scroll (second half of the 13th century)—one of the most famous Japanese works of art outside of Japan.
The Museum also hosts at least four Open Houses annually, with free admission and family-focused programming for about 10,000 visitors on each of the days. In addition, the MFA recently introduced a number of highly successful annual cultural festivals that celebrate the visual arts, film, music, food, and traditions of Boston’s diverse populations. These events include Lunar New Year, celebrating Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Year traditions; Diwali, the Indian festival of lights; and Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
1. Artful Healing offers art-making activities for children, teens, young adults, and their families in Boston-area hospitals. The program requires $75,000 to fund annually.
2. The Ambassador Program employs local university students to serve visitors with a helpful understanding of the MFA’s collections and operations. The program has an annual budget of $50,000.
3. The MFA’s Access Initiatives offer guided interactive tours to visitors with disabilities, which are tailored to their needs. The budget for these initiatives is $24,000.
4. Work undertaken to improve the Art of the Ancient World will include the renovation and reinstallation of four galleries dedicated to Gods and Goddesses (both Greek and Roman), Byzantine Art, Early Greek Art, and a unique pairing of contemporary sculptures by Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011) with Greek and Roman art, a source of creative inspiration for the 20th-century master. This innovative installation will invite museum-goers to make their own connections and comparisons to the art of the past. The total budget for the renovation is $18,882,331.
I am pleased to share a Strategic Plan that embraces our mission of bringing art and people together with a new sense of urgency. In 2020, the MFA will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding. Our shared vision for 2020 declares a set of MFA priorities for the next three years. We believe in the power of art and commit to fully realizing our role in connecting world cultures and a destination for convening, reflection, and ideas. MFA 2020 envisions a future with art in which we are known for our spirit of collaboration and ability to welcome and deeply engage a wide variety of audiences in the life of the Museum. We will celebrate artists across time, honor all visitors, and invite many voices to participate.
A spirit of collaboration and engagement is at the core of MFA 2020, a Strategic Plan that articulates a shared voice and vision for the next three years at the Museum. At the heart of the plan is an ambitious commitment to activating new audiences around the Museum’s collection, and bringing diverse perspectives together to reflect on art as a platform to address the times in which we live.
MFA 2020 will be realized through five pillars that reflect a mindful shift from where the MFA is today and lays out how it will respond to new ideas, link cultures, and cultivate a range of voices to encourage change. These imperatives are: Collect Purposefully, Collaborate Generously, Invite Boldly, Welcome Warmly, and Engage Deeply. Our roadmap charts a path forward to becoming an institution of the moment and of the community.
These foundational values will lead the MFA into the future and secure a greater role of relevance in the city. MFA 2020 expresses the Museum’s commitment to local, national and international visitors, members and supporters—while also broadening the Museum’s reach. We will develop programs that attract new and diverse audiences who represent Boston’s changing demographics and innovative culture—specifically, students (K–12, undergraduate and graduate), multigenerational families, and creative professionals.
While building on the success of many established Museum programs, MFA 2020 incorporates more than 50 new initiatives. This plan is a living document—our first installment in a process to achieve transformational ambitions, inviting the continued dedication and involvement of staff, volunteers, and governance.
Ann and Graham Gund Director
Board Chair Statement