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Museum of Fine Arts reopens with focus on artists of color

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Museum of Fine Arts reopens with focus on artists of color
"No Weapon Formed Against Thee Shall Prosper” by artists Cey Adams, Sophia Dawson, Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez, Rob “Problak” Gibbs and Rob Stull greets visitors to the newly reopened MFA. PHOTO: CELINA COLBY

The Museum of Fine Arts reopened last weekend after six months of closure due to COVID-19, and the new museum experience looks a little bit different. Not just because of the hand sanitizing stations, one-way walking directions and timed-ticket entry, but because of the collection on view. Of the five primary exhibitions that will be on view during October inside and outside the museum, four celebrate artists of color.

“Savoy: Leon & Willa Mae” by Richard Yarde. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection © Richard Yarde 1989 PHOTOGRAPH © MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

“Savoy: Leon & Willa Mae” by Richard Yarde. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection © Richard Yarde 1989 PHOTOGRAPH © MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

This experience begins before visitors even arrive at the museum doors. On the lawn outside the museum a new mural, “No Weapon Formed Against Thee Shall Prosper” pays homage to victims of police brutality. Organized by Street Theory Gallery and created by artists Cey Adams, Sophia Dawson, Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez, Rob “Problak” Gibbs and Rob Stull, the mural depicts Martin Luther King Jr. with a clenched fist raised in the air and an infant George Floyd in his mother’s arms. The mural is part of Street Theory Gallery’s “Murals for the Movement” project, a public art program reimagining American cities as more diverse and tolerant places to live.

Inside the museum, which is hosting visitors in a reduced capacity with timed-ticket entry, the spaces available to art lovers are limited. The museum plans to reopen in stages, with the first stage offering the Art of the Americas wing and a few select temporary exhibitions for public view.

“Ero” by Jean- Michel Basquiat, Private Collection, © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. COURTESY, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

“Ero” by Jean- Michel Basquiat, Private Collection, © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. COURTESY, MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON

“Black Histories, Black Futures,” the show highlighting the Black experience and curated by local teens, greets viewers as they enter the museum and stretches through the heart of the building.

On Oct. 18, “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation” will open, connecting visual and verbal languages among artists of color during Basquiat’s lifetime. The exhibition debuted on Instagram in April and will now open in person as originally planned, with amendments made for COVID-19 safety procedures. In the MFA’s Instagram highlights, visitors can still find input from Boston hip-hop artists who spoke to the show’s themes.

Finally, on the third floor of the Art of the Americas wing, “Women Take the Floor” celebrates the oft-forgotten female pioneers of the art world. With an emphasis on women of color, some of them local like Loïs Mailou Jones, the show explores the challenges women face in the art world and the groundbreaking work that’s gone uncelebrated.

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