January 7, 2011

New Sights at the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing

I made my first visit to the new Art of the Americas Wing in the MFA on opening day. It was great to see the new spaces and the new pieces of the addition, but also to see familiar pieces from the museum that are shown in a new light within the wing. I was struck by the way the context in which pieces were displayed really contributed to the way I saw them.

Within the 50 galleries of the new wing, I was amazed by the variety of the pieces in each space. Some galleries were packed, some were more spacious, but all included many different types of works occupying the same space. Paintings next to furniture, furniture next to stained glass, stained glass next to sculpture – yet all of these different types of works showed strong connections to one another. These arrangements made it possible to see how the artists and art works were influenced by each other – and how this influence transcended location, media, or in some cases, time. It’s fascinating to be able to draw comparisons between each piece, and to consider how each are related.

One of my favorite surprises in the new wing was coming across John White Alexander’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil”, a long-time favorite of mine in the museum. I caught a first glimpse of the painting down a long corridor. From that distance and with the lighting just right, it really appeared to glow! It’s a phenomenon that distance helps emphasize, and it seemed almost as if the whole gallery was designed exclusively for this painting. It’s spectacular to see how the new space can transform the viewing experience for this piece to such a great extent.

I definitely recommend a visit, and look forward to the many new things I might find next time.

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