Experiential Spaces and Renewed Interpretation to Provide Contemporary Perspectives
More than 500 Newly Conserved Objects Across Media to Bring the Ancient World to Life
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is undergoing a major renovation and reinstallation of four galleries at the heart of the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, which will display nearly 500 objects ranging from the beginnings of Greek art (about 1100 B.C.E.) through the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century and into the present day. Scheduled to open in spring 2021, this project will create a grand entry for visitors to the MFA’s renowned collection of Classical art—one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world. The galleries will showcase iconic highlights of the collection, including many objects that have not been on view, adding to a renovated suite of 11 Classical galleries completed since 2009—most recently Daily Life in Ancient Greece. The renovations are made possible by a broad coalition of 24 donors, led by George D. and Margo Behrakis, The Krupp Family Foundation, Richard and Nancy Lubin and an anonymous donor.
“The MFA’s Greek, Roman and Byzantine collections are foundational to this Museum,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “These new galleries will bring to life the richness of Classical art, providing contemporary perspectives on the era’s profound legacy. Original interpretation will allow us to have conversations across time and geography, exploring themes that remain central to our society today, including democracy, religion, philosophy and literature.”
The new galleries will align with the Museum’s long-standing mission to bring art and people together, and to encourage inquiry, understanding and appreciation of visual language. A popular destination for school groups, new interpretation will engage a wider range of students, many of whom have different learning styles, backgrounds and experiences—making the objects more accessible to the next generation of museumgoers. Narratives throughout the galleries will examine contemporary issues through the lens of the past, asking questions about what it means to be an enlightened citizen, what role religion plays within society, and why the mythical world is an enduring source of fascination—then and now. Additionally, every object will be documented, cleaned and conserved before going on view. Highlights of the four new spaces include:
- Anchored by the Museum’s beloved 13-foot Juno statue, a highlight of the renovation is a new gallery dedicated to “Gods and Goddesses,” which will re-create the atmosphere of a temple. Featuring large-scale sculptures as well as more intimate objects ranging in date from the 5th century B.C.E. to the 3rd century C.E., the immersive space will introduce the personalities, feats and fates of the deities the Greeks and Romans worshiped, and explore ancient religious practices.
- A Byzantine gallery, the first of its kind in New England, will cover a geographically diverse collection of works ranging in origin from the era of Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This includes the 15th-century Monopoli altar, which will be on view for the first time after undergoing major conservation. Evocative of an altar in an early Byzantine church, the space will feature a soundscape reflecting liturgical chants.
- A gallery exploring Early Greek Art—a major strength of the MFA’s collection—from its beginnings in the wake of Mycenae (about 1100 B.C.E.) to the Persian Wars (480/479 B.C.E.) includes the Mantiklos Apollo, the most famous object in the MFA’s Greek collection.
- A gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art will demonstrate connections between the art of the late 19th–early 21st centuries and the Classical world.
“It is truly gratifying to activate our Greek and Roman collections through new scholarship and ideas,” said Christine Kondoleon, George D. and Margo Behrakis Chair, Art of Ancient Greece and Rome. “Many of these works are among the oldest in the collection, yet they will create connections between cultures past and present—reminding us that we are a global museum. As the ‘Athens of America,’ Boston deserves the best presentation of these renowned works of art.”
In addition to showcasing iconic works of art, the renovations will include grand architectural enhancements—including greater ceiling height—as well as multimedia and digital technology interventions and environmental systems including air conditioning, and increased natural lighting. The renovations will unify the collection and connect to previously renewed spaces, leading the visitor on a natural progression that provides a window into ancient life, including athletic pursuits and gender roles; coins as both works of art and tools of exchange; and jewelry as a symbol of portable wealth.
The MFA is committed to the care, study and enhancement of the Museum’s extraordinary collection of art through an ambitious program of gallery renovations and reinstallations. Earlier this year, the Museum opened its new Arts of Islamic Cultures Gallery and in 2020 some of its greatest Egyptian masterpieces will be reinstalled and reinterpreted in two newly designed and renovated spaces. Also opening in 2020, the Museum’s 150th anniversary year, is a new state-of-the-art Conservation Center, featuring 22,000 square feet of space and six laboratories.
One of the nation’s oldest art museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), was founded on February 4, 1870. The Museum opened its doors to the public on July 4, 1876—the nation’s centennial—at its original location in Copley Square. Over the next several decades, the MFA’s collection and visitation grew exponentially, and in 1909, the Museum moved to its current home on Huntington Avenue. Today, the MFA houses a global collection encompassing nearly 500,000 works of art, from ancient to contemporary, and welcomes approximately 1.2 million visitors each year to celebrate the human experience through art as well as innovative exhibitions and programs. In 2017, Matthew Teitelbaum, the 11th director in the Museum’s history, unveiled MFA 2020, a three-year Strategic Plan that articulated a forward-looking vision for the Museum to become an institution of the moment and more connected to the community. The spirit of collaboration and engagement at the core of MFA 2020 has been brought to life over the past three years through the implementation of more than 50 initiatives, the full slate of which will be realized during the Museum’s 150th anniversary year.
Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–5 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–10 pm. Admission is free for MFA Members, University Members and youths age 17 and younger. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25) and is free to all visitors during Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Lunar New Year Celebration, Memorial Day, Free Fun Friday and Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions.
The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. For more information, call 617.267.9300, visit mfa.org or follow the MFA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.