Sunday, September 25, 2011

BEE #4: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA)

Saturday, Sept. 24th was Smithsonian magazine's Museum Day.  Museums across the country offered two free admissions per household if you simply registered in advance and printed off your voucher.  I looked into it and found that of the participating museums in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) was on the list!  I registered and received two free tickets, one for me and one for my roommate (a $40 value for free!).

On Saturday we headed for the museum by T (the public transit system).  The museum is located off of the Green E line, so we had to transfer to get there.  Unfortunately, the station that looked like it should connect us to the correct line on the maps did not allow you to pass from the inbound to the outbound platform, which is what we needed.  So instead we ended up going up to street level and walking a couple of blocks to the next station, where we made the transfer successfully.  Turns out this was an added bonus!  We got to see another part of the city (a portion of Back Bay) that we will return to for a future adventure...

We arrived at the museum, turned in our vouchers for tickets and entered.  The MFA offers free coat-check, so we were able to get rid of our jackets before setting off to view some art.
Me in front of one of the entrances to the MFA
The MFA is BIG.  Granted my roommate and I are both "sign-readers" it takes us a little longer than most people to get through an area.  However, we probably only got through about a fourth of the museum in a 4-5 hour visit!  I will just have to come back in the future, but for now I'll share what I saw in my first visit.  On this trip we saw the exhibits on jewelry and musical instruments, the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, and a special exhibit of five works by Monet.

Both the jewelry and the musical instruments are housed in two small exhibits near the Huntington entrance to the museum.  The jewelry exhibit contains everything from a jewelry set that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln to a box decorated in exquisite amber cameos to a set of pieces that included taxidermy hummingbirds in their design!  Many of the pieces were either very beautiful or rather unusual and were well worth the time we spent looking at them.  The old musical instruments exhibit included a couple of pieces that stood out to me among a lot of less interesting but historically relevant instruments.  My favorite in the room was the rotating glass bowl instrument that Benjamin Franklin designed to reduce the effort necessary to produce the sound made by rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a goblet.  The intricately decorated grand piano and inlaid guitar were also some of my other favorites in the exhibit.

We then headed to the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.  This wing of the museum is new and just opened in about the last month.  It provides a home for more modern pieces of art that range from statues to neon signs to the odd and slightly weird.
"All Art has been contemporary"
The neon sign on the wall says "All art has been contemporary," which makes a good point.  I think highlights of the wing included a work made out of bottle caps and aluminum bottle labels that resembled a topographic map, a twisted hand-carved clay sculpture, a lattice-work basket made of Pyrex rods, and a piece supposed to resemble an ice flow.  For the ice flow piece the artist had traveled to the Arctic and recorded the sounds of bubbles and water moving under the ice.  She then made it into low frequency vibrations, so that when you sat on the ice flow mold, you could feel and experience being on an ice sheet!  (If you noticed...a couple of the pieces I just mentioned could be linked to

We got lunch at the cafeteria in the museum and ate it in an outdoor courtyard.  Then after lunch we finished the contemporary wing, walked around to explore the layout of the rest of the museum.  Here is my favorite staircase we discovered in our wanderings.
Staircase in MFA, lined with vases
Finally, we visited a special exhibit that was in its last two days at the MFA.  The special exhibit displayed five works by Monet and five by Lichtenstein all inspired by the Rouen Cathedral.  Monet painted the cathedral from five varying perspectives with different lighting.  Lichtenstein then drew inspiration from Monet's five paintings about seventy-five years later and created images of dots silk-screened over a base color to echo the outlines of the cathedral recorded by Monet.  The contrast between the classic works by Monet gathered from museums around the world (all together in one place!!) and the more modern works by Lichtenstein was very interesting and it was fun to see how the same subject could lead to very different pieces of work!

There is still a lot left to explore.  Besides our wandering to get the layout of the museum, we did not get a chance to explore the Art of the Americas, the European Art, the Ancient Art or the Asian Art wings.  I guess there is always next time! :-)

After we finished at the museum, we took a detour on our way home for a repeat trip to Haymarket (BEE #1).  Nothing beats four nectarines or a bag of lemons for a buck!

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