My Favorite & Least Favorite East Coast Museums

Favorite: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

You can probably tell by all the MFA pieces I’ve been posting recently that I’m kind of smitten. From the outside, it looks like a mini-Met, but inside the rooms are more specifically decorated for the kinds of art within them. For instance the ancient Etruscan/Persian room is lined with geometric shapes with yellow/brown walls, while the contemporary art (in a completely different part of the building) is in a huge open room with white walls and high ceilings. Each room you walk into changes your mindset, and makes you more receptive to what’s inside.

There’s even a long, tall hallway filled with Renaissance paintings stacked on top of one another. It reminded me of the National Gallery in London or the Louvre, both filled with tall rooms of painting on top of painting next to painting. A part of me hates rooms like this because it doesn’t give each piece the space it deserves, but most of me loves the impressiveness of all those beautiful things so close to each other.

They also have these great “Conservation in Action” rooms where you can see works of art in the process of being preserved. There’s clear glass separating you from the preservationist’s workroom and they write notes on a blackboard about what step of the process they’re on and what else it will take to keep the work in good condition. I’ve never seen a room like this in a museum before, but now I really think they all should have them, because anyone interested in seeing art and ancient artifacts would definitely be interested in what it takes to keep these things around.

Aside from being well-curated with beautiful rooms, the museum has a really solid collection– both in ancient art and contemporary, a feat not easily accomplished. They have the Red and Black Room wall paintings from ancient Rome, gold-lit rooms of Egyptian hieroglyphics, plus the standards by Warhol and Chuck Close. It’s also one of the few museums that actually had great contemporary art, including Manhole by Ivan Navarro (right, 2011) and some I’ve already written about like Cecily Brown’s Skulldiver III. Of course there’s always that “Black Panel” that sneaks in under the guise of ambiguity and draw-your-own-conclusion nonsense, but for the most part this place is filled to the brim with must-sees.

Least Favorite: Museum of Modern Art, New York

Now that I’ve been living in New York for a while, this and the Met are probably the museums I frequent the most. And every time I go I think, “Maybe this time they’ll step it up,” but unfortunately most of it is just trash– and I mean literal trash. I think it was supposed to be some sort of comment on the wastefulness of our society, but I’ll never forget walking into one of the temporary first floor galleries and just seeing random piles of trash sectioned off as “art.” Which is pretty lazy art if you ask me.

Maybe it’s because I just don’t “get” modern art most of the time, but I really don’t understand most of what this place chooses to showcase. The reason art is so great is because it takes time and talent and actual thought, and to me, calling everything you make “Untitled” is just a cop-out for not having a reason for making it in the first place.

The permanent collection is what I go to see. Of course there’s Starry Night and they recently acquired Monet’s Water Lillies (although I’m not sure for how long), but the new exhibits on the top and bottom-most floors are usually not worth taking the escalator to see. I know some people enjoyed the Cindy Sherman exhibit, but if I wanted to see a narcissistic Halloween party I would have stayed home and played dress-up myself.

I just feel like there’s so much potential for the temporary exhibits, and so much of it is wasted on blurry photographs and type-print posters. The Paining and Sculpture exhibits on the fourth and fifth floors make the MoMA worth going to, there’s just nothing to come back for once you’ve seen the good stuff. I recommend going on Friday afternoons when it’s free– just be prepared to elbow some tourists if you want to see what’s worth seeing. 

More photos of the MFA (all taken by me):