- Collections: Art from the five continents, ranging from the Ancient World to Contemporary Art.
- City: Boston, MA, USA.
- Opening hours: Saturday-Tuesday: 10am-4:45pm; Wednesday-Friday: 10am-9:45pm
- Price: $25 regular, $23 concessions, free for children under 17 or 6 (depending on visit time)
The MFA is the first place I visited in Boston and it is still my favorite museum that I visited during my US East Coast trip,but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The first thing you should know is that the MFA is a big museum, but it is still manageable. I spent approximately five hours there but I took my time and had a lunch break. The museum has 4 floors, and is divided into five main wings plus special exhibitions. I entered from the Fenway entrance (North) that you can see on the panoramic picture,which takes you straight through the European Art galleries, one levels 1 and 2. On the East wing, and spread across all four floors is the Art of the Americas. Then, the South wing is divided between Art of the Ancient world to the East (levels 1 and 2), and Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa (levels 1 and 2). Finally, the West wing houses the contemporary art galleries on levels 1 and 2. This may sound a bit complex but the museum is actually really easy to navigate and the color-coded visitor map is very easy to read and features highlights from the collections and where to find them. There are two reference points at the center of the museum: the Shapiro Family courtyard (pictured below) and the Rotunda.
There are many things I really enjoyed about these museums, but here are some highlights. Firstly, I found the museum extremely easy to navigate. All the galleries are clearly numbered and there are almost no dead ends, so you can have a fluid visit without having to repeat rooms. So even though the museum is large, you don’t waste time by tracing back your steps. Another thing I appreciated were the free tours offered regularly in all areas of the museum. I think that they partly justify the cost of the entry ticket. I didn’t listen to a complete one but I stumbled upon a couple and they seemed interesting and led by professional and knowledgeable people who don’t only talk about the art itself but also give some anecdotes about it and how it relates to the outside world. Speaking of value for money, another interesting feature of the MFA are the “Conservation in action” rooms (pictured below). My friend who was interning there told me that the curators are not a fan of these rooms because they take up some of the storage space but as a visitor, I thought it was a great addition to the museum. You get to see conservators work on some pieces through a glass wall, which can be a little strange but is also a really nice insight on the behind the scenes aspect of the museum life.
The price for the ticket also includes temporary exhibitions. The Hokusai exhibit was on during my visit and I highly recommend it. It runs until August 9 2015. This exhibition was one of my highlights because it was so simply yet well designed. Every part focused on a theme, and the wall colors changed accordingly. It was easy to understand even without reading labels and explanatory panels, which provided more in depth information. There was also a small display case at the exit with objects that the museum staff gathered featuring the famous wave, which I thought was engaging. The most impressive part is probably that all the pieces on display (and it is a substantial exhibit) belong to the collection of the MFA. In terms of the permanent collection, my favorite displays included ancient jewelry and a case with Egyptian faience, both in the Ancient World wing. This wing is being renovated, so there are some new rooms and some older ones, and it should be even more impressive in the future. Another favorite of mine is the Contemporary Art wing (pictured below) which features some impressive pieces.
I would suggest two options for visiting the MFA. Either you want to do a comprehensive visit, in which case it is worth spending a few hours there. You can have a lunch or snack break; I had mine in the garden cafeteria which I highly recommend. You have a great choice of food, including an elaborate salad bar, and beautiful seating outside if it’s a nice day. The other option is picking a wing or two plus possibly a temporary exhibition and just visiting those parts, in which case it would take a couple of hours. Overall, I think that the MFA is more than just worth a visit. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, well designed and well curated, engaging but not imposing. The pictures I took don’t do it justice but I love this museum and I can’t wait until I visit it again. Stay on the lookout for more reviews and musings in Boston, New York, and Washington DC, and for some new art inspired by everything I saw during my trip.
- Accessibility (location, price, disabled access, transport links and parking): 7.5/10
- Architecture: 8.5/10
- Collections: 9.5/10
- Display: 9/10
- Resources (explanation panels, guides, plans): 9/10
- Extras (shop, events, exhibitions): 8/10
- Overall: 9/10