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At the MFA Boston – The exhibit that never sleeps

MFA Boston launches series of all-night parties

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
At the MFA Boston – The exhibit that never sleeps
Partygoers line up to see Christian Marclay’s artwork “The Clock.” (Photo: Photo: Natasha Moustache)

Author: Photo: Natasha Moustache(l-r) Matthew Teitelbaum, director of MFA Boston, and artists Frances Stark and Christian Marclay outside the museum.

In a city with a 2 a.m. bedtime, the last place you look for nightlife is in a museum. On Saturday, Sept. 17 the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston broke that rule by hosting an all-night party as part of their #mfaNOW programming initiative. The party featured a number of new exhibits including “UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015” and Christian Marclay’s “The Clock.” A live DJ spun beats and the revered floor of the museum became the scene of breakdancing and the dougie. Graffiti artist MerkThose painted a canvas live, amid food trucks and lawn games. One thing’s for sure: the 146-year-old museum had never seen a night like this.

Matthew Teitelbaum, appointed in April 2015 as MFA director, has been making moves to modernize the museum and bring in the youth audience. This was his most successful program yet. According to Karen Frascona, the museum’s public relations coordinator, around 7,000 people attended the event, some waiting up to two hours in a line that snaked around the building.

Author: Photo: Natasha Moustache(l-r) Pete L’Official, Liz Munsell, Verena von Pfetten, Bobby Jesus, Nick Donofrio and Maggie Gram.

The event was rife with opportunity to be hokey and pandering, but instead it struck a balance between fun and intellect. The galleries were packed with people viewing and experiencing art that they otherwise never may have seen. The suspension of an entrance fee was a commendable move in the increasingly money-oriented art world. One of the most popular events of the evening was Collage Confessions, where partygoers could sit down for an arts-and-crafts experience inspired by Frances Stark’s confessional style. Stark herself attended, and participated in the event.

For those more partial to mornings than evenings, the activity list included coffee and yoga, as well as a children’s story hour and artmaking. The event ran from 6 p.m. on Friday until 9 a.m. Saturday and any partygoers still there in the morning were welcome to explore the rest of the museum, free of charge.

The #mfaNOW Overnights help to break down the barriers of traditional art institutions. Held in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, this kind of programming welcomes people into what’s often seen as an intimidating cultural shrine and begs them to sit down, be comfortable and make the space their own. This work torches the idea of whispering in museums, and stopping before each painting to nod thoughtfully. It shows the public that art can be seen and experienced in a number of visceral ways, and none of them are right or wrong. And that is exactly what the Boston area needs.

The MFA plans to host three more free all-night parties, on Friday/Saturday, Oct. 14/15, 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.; Friday/Saturday, Nov. 4/5, 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.; and Friday/Saturday, Dec. 9/10, 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Party themes include college (“College Edition”), elections (“State of the Party”) and “Last Call.”