The Museum of Fine Arts (or Museum of Fine Arts MFA) in Boston, Massachusetts, is the fourth largest museum in the United States. It contains more than 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in America. With more than one million visitors a year, it is the most visited 55th art museum in the world as of 2014.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is one of the world’s most comprehensive art museums with a collection that illustrates the breadth, richness and diversity of artistic expression, from prehistoric times to the present.
Founded in 1870, the museum moved to its present location in 1909. The museum is affiliated with the Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts.
World-famous paintings by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cassatt, as well as the finest group of Coins outside Paris and one of the richest collections of prints and drawings in the world share space with mummies, sculpture, ceramics and gold from ancient Egypt, Greece, the Middle East and the Roman Empire, as well as masterpieces of African and Oceanic art from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
Paintings, sculpture, furniture, decorative arts, and fashion from North, Central, and South America are displayed in the context and era of their origin, including one of the finest collections of art from the United States.
Encompassing Japanese, Chinese, and Indian painting and sculpture; Japanese prints and metalwork; and Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese ceramics, the MFA’s collection of Asian art is unrivaled in size, scope, and distinction in the Western world.
The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1870 and opened in 1876, with much of its original collection drawn from the Boston Athenæum Art Gallery. Francis Davis Millais, a local artist, was instrumental in establishing the Art School associated with the museum and in appointing Emil Otto Grundmann as its first director. The museum was originally located in the ornate brick Gothic Revival building in Copley Square, designed by John Hubbard Sturgis and Charles Brigham, who was noted for the massive architectural terra cotta in the American building.
In 1907, plans were laid for a new home for the museum on Huntington Avenue in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood next to the renowned Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The museum’s trustees decided to hire architect Guy Lowell to create a design for the museum that could be built in phases 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) granite facade and a grand rotunda. The museum moved to a new location this year; the Copley Square Hotel will eventually replace the old building.
The second phase of construction built a wing along the Fens picture galleries. It was funded entirely by Maria Antoinette Evans Hunt, wife of wealthy business magnate Robert Dawson Evans, and opened in 1915. From 1916 to 1925, renowned artist John Singer Sargent painted murals adorning the rotunda and associated colonnades. Numerous additions have enlarged the building over the years, including a decorative arts wing in 1928 (expanded again in 1968) and the Norma Jean Calderwood Palace Garden and Terrace in 1997. The West Wing, designed by IM Pei, opened in 1981 and was renamed the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art in 2008. This wing houses a café, restaurant, gift store, and a dedicated exhibition space.
In the mid-2000s, the museum undertook a major effort to renovate and expand its facilities. In a seven-year fundraising campaign between 2001 and 2008 for the new wing, donations and operating expenses, the museum raised more than $500 million and purchased more than $160 million of art. During the global financial crisis between 2007 and 2012, the museum’s budget was reduced by $1.5 million dollars, and the museum increased revenue through traveling exhibitions, including a loan exhibition sent to the commercial Bellagio in Las Vegas in exchange for $1 million. In 2011, Moody’s Investors Service estimated that the museum had more than $180 million in debt. However, the agency cited growing attendance, a large endowment and positive cash flow as reasons to believe the museum’s finances would become stable in the near future.
The renovation included new art from the American Wing, featuring art from North, South and Central America. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 2006. The wing and the adjacent Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyards were designed in an understated, contemporary style by the London architectural firm Foster and Partners under the direction of Thomas T. Difraya and CBT / Childs Bertman Tseckares Architects. Landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol redesigned Huntington Avenue and Fenway entrances, gardens, driveways and patios.