Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Art of the Americas Wing at the MFA

On this rainy Sunday, we finally decided to go to the Museum of Fine Arts and check out the Art of the Americas Wing and the rest of museum now that everything is shifted around.  I still find it odd entering the new entrance and am still a bit thrown off when I walk in.  I used to know the museum fairly well, but now I am starting from scratch!

Right at the entrance, there were a number of staff members with iPads, ready to answer all sorts of questions, but also to sign up new members.  The ticket price per person was $20 and the membership was only $75 with a free guest pass and then all sorts of good discounts on the gift shop and the restaurants.  So basically if we go one other time in the year, it paid for itself.  For those who drive, there are significant parking discounts.  So once again, I became a member of the MFA!   

We wandered around the older wings of the museum to see my favorite rooms, including the impressionists with all the Monet's, Renoir's, and Degas' ballerina statue.  I forget how striking the architecture is of each gallery, the ceilings especially.  Most are done in a way to reflect the era of the artwork of the room.  In general though, each of the galleries in the older wings felt more open.  Each piece seemed less crowded due to the shifting of all the works for the new wing.  Recognizing this, I got more excited for the new wing.

Having read all the reviews of the new wing, I wondered whether it would actually live up to all my expectations.  I can safely say, though, that the Art of the Americas Wing exceeded my expectations!  It basically took the MFA and made it a modern museum that can compete with the more popular or "famous" museums across the pond or in our neighboring city to the south.

A perfect example of this is the new restaurant in the enclosed courtyard.  The MFA went from having a great fine dining restaurant (Bravo, which I highly recommend), a crowded cafe and a basement cafeteria, to having a great alternative, the New American Cafe.  I saw this and immediately felt as though I was in the grand lobby of the British Museum!  It was so sleek and modern and still bright on such a cloudy day.  A great place to take a break and replenish after exploring!  It had just closed by the time we made it there.

New American Cafe
In a word, the new Art of the Americas Wing was impressive.  It really allowed the museum to show off paintings that haven't been seen in a long time as there was nowhere to hang them!  Moreover, John Singer Sargent and John Singleton Copley finally got the exhibition areas they deserved.  Their artwork was on display so that an actual story was told, making their artwork that much more effective.  I also did not realize what a collection the MFA had of their works until Sunday, specifically with respect to Copley.  He painted his way through the revolutionary war and captured most of the prominent figures of that time.

One of the best examples of a painting being put on pedestal in the new wing is Thomas Sully's Passage of the Delaware.  My first trip to the MFA was on a field trip in third grade.  I remember sitting in front of this painting and being impressed even then, knowing nothing!  The size of the painting and the size of Washington himself in the painting really conveyed the importance of everything going on at the time.  Of everything I saw that day (in third grade) that painting was what I remembered.  On my next visits though, he was no longer there.  It was just so large that it grew out its space and had to be put into storage. 

Passage of the Delaware
In the new Art of the Americas Wing however, there is now a room dedicated to this painting.  Even the wall colors complement the painting.  It really finally shines in its new location.  Along side this piece are the unfinished portraits of Martha and George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.  They were left unfinished because Martha Washington never really liked them.  Little did she know, that it became the face on every dollar bill!

We also lucked out as the Avedon Fashion exhibition was still there. 

I was not too familiar with the photographer, but all you need to know is he took pictures of all the famous people since the 40's, including Audry Hepburn, Bridget Bardot, Stephanie Seymour, and Kate Moss.  He took photos for Harper's Bizarre and other high end fashion magazines.

The new MFA was more than I expected.  The Art of the Americas Wing really modernized the entire museum.  I cannot wait to go back and explore some more (now that I am a member and all)!  Also, the green line stops direct in front of the museum (the Museum of Fine Arts stop) making it so accessible.  There really is no excuse not to go!

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