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 “UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015” (September 17, 2016 – January 29, 2017) for example, is the most comprehensive survey to date of Los Angeles-based artist and writer Frances Stark (born 1967), “UH-OH” tracks her 25-year career from early carbon copy drawings and text-based works to more recent video installations, digital slide shows, and projects that shape fleeting engagements with social media into art. Featuring more than 100 works, “UH-OH” provides an in-depth exploration of Stark’s singular artistic practice and voice, as she shares her knowledge of cultural topics high and low, including dissections of art history, the Internet, and her creative contemporaries.
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 Arts of Japan Galleries will include the renovation and reinstallation of two galleries dedicated to the Art of the Town, one of Japanese prints, and the historic Buddhist Temple Room. The total budget for the renovation is $3,267,650.
October 9 is the public opening of “William Merritt Chase,” in the Gund Gallery. One of the late 19th century’s most influential artists and educators, Chase was a modern master who celebrated beauty, and mentored a new generation of modernists. A timely retrospective, grouped by theme and concept, the exhibition brings together the painter’s finest work from public and private collections across the US.
Our celebration of contemporary art and artists #mfaNOW, continues in October. It’s a season of transformation and creative ferment, from cutting-edge exhibitions to film and theater festivals. “UH-OH Frances Stark 1991–2015,” organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, tracks LA-based artist Frances Stark’s 25-year career from early drawings and text-based works to video installations and projects that engage with social media. The MFA is the only East Coast venue for this survey of her provocative works, and both levels of the Linde Family Wing vibrate with the sounds and sights created by the artist the LA Times called “the visual poet laureate of the Internet age.”
“Christian Marclay: The Clock” also keeps time in the Linde Family Wing. The return to the MFA of this groundbreaking 24-hour video collage marks a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in thousands of stories from familiar films and through recognizable, expressive images, each told in an instant—enthralling and meditative—as every minute of the piece reminds us of the ceaseless passage of time.
Enjoy a few midnights and beyond with The Clock this fall with mfaNOW Overnights; take advantage of free admission after hours and mix your art and ideas with some dancing, games, food in surprising, unexpected ways to encounter art, the galleries, meeting spaces, and creative energy at the MFA. September’s Launch Party had a great response, and October’s College Edition (all ages welcome!) promises to be another occasion for people to be together and experience art.
Ann and Graham Gund Director
Board Chair Statement