On July 4, 1876, the Museum of Fine Arts opened in Copley Square. The original museum had approximately 5,600 pieces of art. But, the museum quickly gained popularity and a denser art collection, so the museum was moved from Copley Square to Huntington Avenue.


© Museum of Fine Arts Boston

What started out has a small museum, with only 5,600 pieces of art, has grown into a dense and comprehensive collection filled with approximately 500,000 pieces of art. Although significant renovations usually occur during the early stages of when a museum opens, most of the renovations to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston has happened in recent years.

In 2010 the museum created the Art of the Americas Wing, which is a comprehensive four level collection of a variety of American art dating back to ancient times. One year later, the general west wing of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston was renovated to become the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. A few years later, in 2013, various galleries, such as the European art gallery, continued to expand. To this day, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston is continuously renovating and expanding to include a more diverse and comprehensive collection of art.

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© Museum of Fine Arts Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has an outstanding 500,000 pieces of art that is spread among a variety of eras, artists, and styles. Thus, there is truly something for everyone at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Featured galleries are continuously changing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Currently, one of the most popular galleries in the museum is the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery, which is also known as Gallery 158. Gallery 158 is currently hosting two contemporary art exhibitions; Political Intent and Beyond Limits. Political Intent and Beyond Limits are two art collections that showcase how artists try to impact and influence the social and political lives of viewers.

Other current galleries include; Beckmann in America, which showcases the influence of renowned artist Max Beckmann on modern day expressionists, and the Chinese Song Dynasty Gallery, which includes some of the most breathtaking and astonishing pieces of art from the Chinese golden era. Since the featured galleries are continuously changing, it is a good idea to check the gallery calendar on the museum’s website to see which galleries are currently being showcased at the museum, and which galleries will be featured soon.

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3.More Things to See

More Things to See
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Collections in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston can be thought of as locations where a comprehensive theme withstands time and the transfer of various pieces of art. Regardless of which galleries are being showcased at a designated time, the museum’s collections will remain the same. There are around ten collections that visitors can explore.

Art of Americas Collection recently expanded to include another 53 galleries. The Art of Americas collection features various American art from across the ages. The earliest works of art date back to the Pre-Columbian era, and the most recent pieces come from the last quarter of the 20th century. If you can’t visit the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, luckily for you the historical and gorgeous paintings that are found in this wing are accessible on the museum’s website. The website collection, dubbed Paintings of Americas, is free to use, and is the Museum of Fine Art’s first web-based art catalogue that is free for everyone.

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4.More Exhibitions

More Exhibitions
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Art of Europe Collection is one of the strongest points in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston art collections. This collection has an immense amount of art that spreads out from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century, after all a whopping 21,000 pieces of art are dated back to the Middle Ages alone. Some of the collection’s most popular exhibitions are; 14th century Italian pieces that include sculptural pieces from Donatello, 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings that include pieces from Peter Paul Rubens and his student, Anthony Van Dyck, and 19th century French paintings that include a combination of impressionist and post-impressionist artists, such as Claude Monet and Renoir. The Art of Europe Collection also includes a variety of period rooms that focus on furniture and household objects that date back between the 16th and 18th centuries.

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5.Art of Asia Collection

Art of Asia Collection
© Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Art of Asia Collection contains an outstanding amount of art from Asia. In fact, this collection is home to over half of the world’s population of Asian art from 4000 BC. Comprising around one-fifth of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s total artwork count, the Art of Asia Collection includes a variety of paintings, prints, sculptures, metalwork, and other pieces of art from across Asia. The collection of Japanese art is thought to be one of the finest collections that is located outside of Japan. Some of the highlights include; Buddhist paintings, Kano-school paintings, and swords. Other renowned sections of the Art of Asia Collection are the Chinese and Indian collections. As for the Islamic collection, it is thought of as the hidden gem of the Museum of Fine Arts. But, once you visit it, you’ll get the chance to understand why it is ranked among the top four similar collections in the United States. Lastly, the other sections of this collection include; Himalayan, Southeast Asian, and Korean art. Although all of those sections are smaller than the rest, they are just as significant and astonishing.

Art of Africa and Oceania Collection includes world-class pieces of art dating from the 16th to the 20th century. This comprehensive collection of African and Pacific art is among the newest additions of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and is continuously expanding and developing. Intricate pieces of bronze and ivory art are shown throughout the African galleries. One of the most interesting aspects of the African collection is that the pieces of art reflect how art was a heavy influence on the lives of African cultures throughout the ages. As for the Pacific art collection, the galleries focus on pieces of art that spread from New Zealand to Hawaii. One of the highlights of the collection is a Maori funnel, which was used by a chief as a way to eat while he was being tattooed. Ancient Pacific cultures withheld the viewpoint that tattooing was an extremely sacred and physically challenging.

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6.Art of Ancient World Collection

Art of Ancient World Collection
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Art of Ancient World Collection features over 85,000 pieces of art from various locations of ancient civilizations, which include; Egypt, Greece, and Anatolia. Some of the artwork dates back all the way to 6500 BC, and the latest pieces of art in this collection are from AD 600. Highlights of this collection include; Greek vases, Egyptian art, and Roman funerary art.

Contemporary Art Collection was created in 1971, and features contemporary pieces of art from 1955 to modern day. Approximately 1500 pieces of art resign in the Contemporary Art Collection. This collection is recognized as being the first museum in the United States of America to add performance art to its collections.

Photography Collection was founded in 1924 by Alfred Stieglitz after he donated around 30 of his most astonishing and significant photographs. The photographs range from the earliest landscapes of the American West, Pictorialism, and European war photography.

Musical Instruments Collection features over 1100 instruments from across the world. Visitors not only get the chance to view the instruments dating from ancient times to modern day, but they also have the chance to learn about and interact with the instruments throughout a variety of events.

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7.Educational Programs and Special Events

Educational Programs and Special Events
© Museum of Fine Arts Boston

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is home to a variety of educational programs. Their dedication to education has been demonstrated since 1876, when the museum founded the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, which was among the oldest and most distinguished. Recently, in 2016, the museum’s school integrated with Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences. Thus, creating the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. This is currently the only art school affiliated with a world renowned art museum in the United States.

Aside from the university program at Tufts, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston offers various lectures, seminars, and studio art classes, which people 18 and older can participate in. Cheaper and more age-friendly classes and programs can be found within the community programs portion of the museum’s website, as the types of community programs are continuously changing.

Like the educational programs and showcased galleries, special events at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston are always changing. But, there are some events that the museum does every year. One of these events is First Fridays, where people, 21 years old and older, can tour the museum while enjoying music and cocktails on the first Friday of every month. Another event that occurs every year is the Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights, which is a free event where people can enjoy music, dance, make art, tour galleries, and celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights is the perfect event for people to get into the spirit of the holiday and learn how the holiday and religion has influenced art. Like any other museum and attraction, check out the Museum of Fine Arts Boston online events calendar before visiting. You never know what kind of interesting event will be going on during the time you visit Boston!

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465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, Phone: 617-267-9300

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Things to Do in Boston: Museum of Fine Arts