Recently the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston unveiled its new Linde family Wing for Contemporary Art.  While the MFA has always possessed a fairly incredible collection of Impressionist and early American artworks, it has never had much of a reputation for its contemporary collection.  The opening of this wing appears to be the first step in changing that perception, if admittedly a bit late to the game.

The new space is located in the west-facing building, designed by I.M. Pei. It’s a rather awkward modernist space, one that the Museum has had difficulty in using effectively. But the whole of the space has been revamped, and successfully.

Over 200 contemporary works will be featured in the new wing and surrounding spaces. In one particularly arresting instance, a flashing chandelier is suspended from the ceiling, both a functional object and a piece of art. A section of the floor vibrates and resonates with the low frequency sound of bubbles escaping from massive ice flows. If nothing else, the MFA deserves credit for its curatorial creativity.

While some of the work has, on more than one occasion, occurred to me as a bit too Museum of Science, it is clear that the MFA is finally trying to transform their space into one that is more welcoming and engaging of the younger generation — the generation that will presumably be its new benefactors.

Most exciting is the MFA’s small gallery dedicated purely to video and multimedia artwork.  It is about time that the Museum begins to accept the significance of multimedia art in the contemporary scene, and a gallery that honors these models of art is long overdue.

During the preview of the Linde Family Wing, Malcom Rogers (Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA) and Edward Saywell (chair of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art) repeatedly emphasized the unique combinations of the artworks shown, pairings that adduce the dialogue that has existed between artists of the past and the present over the last 100 years or so.   The connections made range from the blatantly obvious (i.e. a Lawler photograph next to the Monet that was originally appropriated), to substantially more thoughtful pairings, my personal favorite being a Morris Louis painting against Lynda Benglis’ “Wing,” a painterly, flowing aluminum-cast sculpture that is the perfect 3-dimensional counterpart to Louis’ poured paintings.

It would appear the MFA might be the unassuming tortoise when it comes to contemporary relevance in Boston. Whether this nascent promising persistence will win the race remains to be seen.

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