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The Mass Media

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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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February 26, 2024

All Art Has Been Contemporary

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The words “All Art Has Been Contemporary” illuminated in bold neon letters welcome visitors into the Museum of Fine Art’s newest addition, the Contemporary Wing. On Sept. 18 seven galleries dedicated to contemporary art opened to the public. The new wing takes up 21,250 square feet of space. There are more than 200 new works consisting of renowned artists like Andy Warhol, Dale Chihuly and Sigmir Polke, among others.

“The general idea of the new wing,” access tour coordinator Hannah Goodwin states, “is to contextualize the idea that all art has been contemporary.” Works from artists such as Vincent Van Gogh or Claude Monet would have been seen, in their day, the same as we see these new works presented to us in the Contemporary Wing.

These works are controversial and the meaning behind them may baffle the untrained viewer. While walking through the gallery, I realized how extremely minimalistic it is: plain white walls and big rooms that echo as if empty. Thought-provoking art such as Morris Louis’ “Theta” which questions if the absence of art can actually define a painting and an unidentified artist’s “Campbell Soup Dress” made from cotton material fill the space.

Materials such as gauze used to set broken bones are used to convey the message that contemporary art is not so much about the actual work but rather the significance of the idea expressed. Natural light and the changes in weather are used in large glass works, such as “Arcus III,” to give the room different feelings of harmony.

Things like a glowing “God Bless Taco Bell” neon sign force one to question how far the limit can be pushed before it is no longer art. Where is the boundary, and is there even a boundary?

UMB student Shewit Aregwi said this exhibit really opened her mind to contemporary art, in that she had never really understood it before. The descriptions on the walls and pamphlets allowed her to grasp what the artists were trying to convey. She also said that once she understood one work of art, the rest started making more sense.

This new addition forced me to visualize what we consider ‘classic’ artwork in a more contemporary way: by envisioning how controversial and new different works must have been in the past. By realizing that all art has, in fact, been contemporary, I was able to look past my confusion when it came to minimalist and expressionist art, and find a true appreciation and understanding.

You can get to the MFA on the MBTA: take the Red Line to Park Street, transfer to the Green E Line, then get off at the Museum of Fine Arts stop. It takes about 40 minutes. The museum is open Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.