Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Boston Part 2: A Little Art is Good for the Soul

I love art, however, I'm no art afficianado.  When I look at a painting, I can appreciate what I see whether I like it or not.  But when it comes to things like shading, angles, color schemes and anything else that  you would pick up attending an art class, I'm clueless.  Those things are alien to me but I enjoy the environment that art museums have and the little things I am able to pick up on in a painting.  Today's entry focuses on The Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Art and the Gardner Museum.

Art museums can be very strict about photography which is why there are no photos inside these sites.  This sucks because I would've loved to share some pieces with you on this blog but, rules are rules. 

**NOTE:  Harold made me aware that he thoroughly detests contemporary art so he stayed home that day.  Instead, his best friend Shamus came with us.  So, if you see a green Irish bear popping up in photos, don't be alarmed.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is one of the most impressive looking buildings in Boston.  So impressive in fact, that it won the Harleston Parker Medal in 2007, awarded to "the most beautiful piece of architecture" in Boston.  There needs to be an award for "Coolest Elevator" because the ICA would definitely win!  The ICA was originally in the Back Bay part of the city but moved to Seaport District of South Boston in 2006.  The mission of the ICA is to share the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, provocation, and imagination that contemporary art offers through public access to art, artists, and the creative process.  (taken from the ICA's website...yeah, i hate footnotes.)  Recognizing the fact that I know nothing about art then what I see outright in a piece of art and how it makes me feel and what it makes me think about, I can honestly say that I'm not a big fan of contemporary art.  But, this blog isn't meant to be a review of the art.  The ICA was surprisingly small and it seemed like my visit went by fast.  There were large paintings, works that took up an entire hallway and some photography.  The ICA showcased some works by Shephard Fairey and an exhibit of works by Mark Bradford.  A big "Good Job" goes to the ICA for showcasing and celebrating art done by artists from the Boston area. 

Shamus in front of the ICA

Shamus posing in front of a large work

Our next stop was the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), a popular destination for people who are like me and don't know the details of appreciating art.  This museum has been recommended to me ever since I moved here and I can see why.  It is one of the largest museums in the country and contains over 450,000 works of art.  The museum was founded in 1870 and opened in 1876.  The present building was built in 1909.  This place is a popular destination, especially on a holiday and especially when the museum opens it to the public for free.  The offerings of the museum include art that range from European to American, paintings to photographs, and furniture to musical instruments.  The highlight of the museum, at least in my opinion and artistic tastes, is the Art of the Americas wing.  This wing showcases art from North America, Central America and South America.  Some favorite pieces of mine that I discovered during my visit were Liu Xiaodong's "What to Drive Out?" and John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.  Childe Hassam's "Boston Common at Twilight" offered a small glimpse of Boston in the winter during the early 1900s.  But the real highlights for me were the paintings of the colonial period.  Gilbert Stuart's unfinished works of George and Martha Washington were mesmerizing.  His portrait of George Washington became the most popular reproduction of the 1st President, which includes being the portrait that is now seen on the one dollar bill.  However, nothing, and I mean NOTHING compares to the brilliance of "The Passage of the Delaware" by Thomas Sully.  A gigantic work showing General George Washington leading his army across the Delaware River.  If you visit this museum, try and catch the spotlight talk of this work which offers interesting stories regarding it.

No matter what your artistic tastes are, even if you're like me and don't have a clue as to what makes art good or bad, the Museum of Fine Art is definitely worth visiting.  One of Boston's many jewels in its crown.

Museum of Fine Art
Art museums usually are designed to spawn conversation regarding the works that it displays, but when you visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the conversation usually begins and ends with the greatest art heist in history.  Lets first give a little background.  The museum was established in 1903 by Isabella Stewart Gardner.  She hired an architect in 1896 to design a building in order to house her art collection.  She began collecting art after recieving a large inheritance from her father in 1891.  She collected everything, paintings, sculptures and even autographs.  She even held concerts in this building and even recieved autographed photographs from such musical luminaries such as Johann Brahms.  Her first major art acquisition was Vermeer's The Concert.  One of the most prized works in the museum is Titian's The Rape of Europa

So, lets talk about it now.  Shortly after midnight on March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers worked their way into the museum, handcuffing two security guards and stealing 13 works of art valued at over $500 million, including Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's only seascape The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.  The museum still displays the empty frames from these pieces.  Some believe its because there is a strict provision in Gardner's will that forbids the collection from being altered in any way.  This is not true, however, since only nine frames involved in the theft still hang.  Despite there being a $5 million reward for information leading to the return of the works in good condition, the case still remains unsolved.  The theft has spawned documentaries and books. 

Its unfortunate that the Gardner Museum has been a victim of theft, but in all honesty, itdoes add to the attraction of this site.  Other than that, the art is still compelling and the building itself can also be classified as a masterpiece just from the courtyard alone.  Some of the most interesting pieces are letters from Presidents in whom Gardner admired, including one from George Washington  in which he explained his nominations for certain posts to the father of Garnder's husband.  Chalk the Gardner up as a "Must See" when visiting Boston.  Even if you're not a fan of art, it makes for good conversation.


Heather Rojo said...

I'm glad to see you and Harold are back from Hiatus!

Kata said...

Go Harold go!!! I am Biree, originally from Hungary but we live in Boston now with my parents. Check my blog at biree.blog.hu, especially the Rockport one (sorry it`s Hungarian, but you can find yourself in one of the pics there - http://biree.blog.hu/2010/12/04/rockport_i_magyartalalkozo
And if interested you are very welcome to join the Brookline Association of Small and Toy Animals (BASTA), I am the chief there. Cheers! Biree

Kata said...
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