Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is the fifth largest museum in the United States. It contains more than 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas. It is home to 8,161 paintings, second most only to the Metropolitan Museum in New York among American museums. With more than 1.2 million visitors a year,[2] it is the 52nd most visited art museum in the world as of 2019.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Location within Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Massachusetts)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (the United States)
Location465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Coordinates42.339167°N 71.094167°W / 42.339167; -71.094167
TypeArt museum
Visitors1,249,080 (2019)[1]
DirectorMatthew Teitelbaum
ArchitectGuy Lowell
Public transit access Museum of Fine Arts Ruggles Ruggles Ruggles

Founded in 1870, the museum moved to its current location in 1909. The museum is affiliated with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts.



The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1870 and was initially located on the top floor of the Boston Athenaeum and most of its initial collection came from the Athenæum's Art Gallery.[3] Francis Davis Millet, a local artist, was instrumental in starting the Art School affiliated with the museum, and in appointing Emil Otto Grundmann as its first director.[4] In 1876, the museum moved to a highly ornamented brick Gothic Revival building designed by John Hubbard Sturgis and Charles Brigham, noted for its massed architectural terracotta. It was located in Copley Square at Dartmouth and St. James Streets.[3] It was built almost entirely of brick and terracotta, which was imported from England, with some stone about its base.[5] This building is currently under study as a pending Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission.


In 1907, plans were laid to build a new home for the museum on Huntington Avenue in Boston's Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, near the recently opened Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Museum trustees hired architect Guy Lowell to create a design for a museum that could be built in stages, as funding was obtained for each phase. Two years later, the first section of Lowell's neoclassical design was completed. It featured a 500-foot (150 m) façade of granite and a grand rotunda. The museum moved to its new location later that year; the Copley Plaza Hotel eventually replaced the old building.

The second phase of construction built a wing along The Fens to house paintings galleries. It was funded entirely by Maria Antoinette Evans Hunt, the wife of wealthy business magnate Robert Dawson Evans, and opened in 1915. From 1916 through 1925, the noted artist John Singer Sargent painted the frescoes that adorn the rotunda and the associated colonnades.

The Decorative Arts Wing was built in 1928 and expanded in 1968. An addition designed by Hugh Stubbins and Associates was built in 19661970, and another by The Architects Collaborative in 1976. The West Wing, now the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, was designed by I. M. Pei and opened in 1981. This wing now houses the museum's cafe, restaurant, meeting rooms, classrooms, and a giftshop/bookstore, as well as large exhibition spaces. The Tenshin-En Japanese Garden designed by Kinsaku Nakane opened in 1988, and the Norma Jean Calderwood Garden Court and Terrace opened in 1997.[6][3]


In the mid-2000s, the museum launched a major effort to renovate and expand its facilities. In a seven-year fundraising campaign between 2001 and 2008 for a new wing, the endowment, and operating expenses, the museum managed to total over $500 million, in addition to acquiring over $160 million worth of art.[7] During the global financial crisis between 2007 and 2012, the museum's budget was trimmed by $1.5 million and the museum increased revenues by conducting traveling exhibitions, which included a loan exhibition sent to the for-profit Bellagio in Las Vegas in exchange for $1 million. In 2011, Moody's Investors Service calculated that the museum had over $180 million in outstanding debt. However, the agency cited growing attendance, a large endowment, and positive cash flow as reasons to believe that the museum's finances would become stable in the near future.

In 2011, the museum put eight paintings by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Gauguin, and others on sale at Sotheby's, bringing in a total of $21.6 million, to pay for Man at His Bath by Gustave Caillebotte at a cost reported to be more than $15 million.[8]

Art of the Americas Wing

The renovation included a new Art of the Americas Wing to feature artwork from North, South, and Central America. In 2006, the groundbreaking ceremonies took place. The wing and adjoining Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard were designed in a restrained, contemporary style by the London-based architectural firm Foster and Partners, under the directorship of Thomas T. Difraia and CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares Architects. The landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol redesigned the Huntington Avenue and Fenway entrances, gardens, access roads, and interior courtyards.

The wing opened on November 20, 2010 with free admission to the public. Mayor Thomas Menino declared it "Museum of Fine Arts Day", and more than 13,500 visitors attended the opening. The 12,000-square-foot (1,100 m2) glass-enclosed courtyard features a 42.5-foot (13.0 m) high glass sculpture, titled the Lime Green Icicle Tower, by Dale Chihuly.[9] In 2014, the Art of the Americas Wing was recognized for its high architectural achievement by being awarded the Harleston Parker Medal, by the Boston Society of Architects.

In 2015, the museum renovated its Japanese garden, Tenshin-en. The garden, which originally opened in 1988, was designed by Japanese professor Kinsaku Nakane. The garden's kabukimon-style entrance gate was built by Chris Hall of Massachusetts, using traditional Japanese carpentry techniques.[10][11]


The Museum of Fine Arts possesses materials from a wide variety of art movements and cultures. The museum also maintains a large online database with information on over 346,000 items from its collection, accompanied with digitized images.

Some highlights of the collection include:

The libraries at the Museum of Fine Arts house 320,000 items. The main branch, the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library, named after the noted American artist, is located off-site in Horticultural Hall.[17]


Among the many notable works in the collection the following examples are in the public domain and for which pictures are available.




Notable people




A bulletin has appeared under various titles from 1903 to 1983:[18]

  • 1981–1983 – M Bulletin (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
  • 1978–1980 – MFA Bulletin
  • 1966–1977 – Boston Museum Bulletin
  • 1926–1965 – Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts
  • 1903–1925 – Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin

Racial incident

The museum apologized in 2019 when African-American and mixed-race 12 and 13 year old visitors were targeted by employees and allegedly told "No food, no drink, and no watermelon," which is considered a racial slur in the USA. The museum said that staff would be re-trained. For some younger pupils, it was their first experience of racism. Following an investigation, the museum decided that several of its patrons had been deliberately racist, and banned those people from its grounds permanently.[19][20]

See also


  1. "Visitor Figures 2016" (PDF). The Art Newspaper Review. April 2017. p. 14. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  2. "Museum of Fine Arts Annual Report". Museum of Fine Arts. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  3. Southworth, Susan & Southworth, Michael (2008). AIA Guide to Boston (3rd ed.). Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. pp. 345–47. ISBN 978-0-7627-4337-7.
  4. Natasha. "John Singer Sargent Virtual Gallery". Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  5. "An announcement was made..." ( The Brickbuilder. Boston, MA: Rodgers & Manson. 8 (12): 237. December 1899. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  6. "Architectural History - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 2010-10-11. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  7. Dobrzynski, Judith H. (10 November 2010). "Boston Museum Grows by Casting a Wide Net". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  8. Judith H. Dobrzynski (March 14, 2012), "How an Acquisition Fund Burnishes Reputations". The New York Times.
  9. "Lime Green Icicle Tower". Museum of Fine Arts. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  10. "Japanese Garden, Tenshin-en". Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 2015-03-13. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  11. Takes, Joanna Werch (January 20, 2015). "Chris Hall: A (Japanese-Inspired) Timber Framing Philosophy for Furniture". Woodworker's Journal. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  12. "Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to Receive Landmark Gifts of Dutch and Flemish Art Including Rembrandt Portrait and Other Golden Age Masterpieces". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  13. Massive gift of Dutch art is a coup for MFA - The Boston Globe
  14. "Asian Art at the Museum of Fine Arts". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-10-11.
  15. "Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Announces Major Gift from Rothschild Heirs, Including Family Treasures Recovered from Austria after WWII." Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  16. "Acquisitions of the month: October 2018". Apollo Magazine. 2018-11-09.
  17. "The William Morris Hunt Memorial Library, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston". Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  18. "Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin on JSTOR". JSTOR / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  19. Sini, Rozina (May 25, 2019). "Boston museum sorry for racist 'no watermelons' remark". BBC News. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  20. Garcia, Maria (May 24, 2019). "MFA Bans 2 Patrons After Students Of Color Say They Were Subjected To Racist Comments". WBUR. Retrieved May 28, 2019.

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