Art in Proximity: Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this weekend for a little extra dose of culture. The MFA is one of those iconic museums that you couldn’t possibly see in a day, let alone the hour and a half I had to wander its neo-classical halls. And I spent the first hour and fifteen minutes of my visit wandering, attempting to find the thing that I had planned to see (Manet’s Street Singer). Here’s what I found:

1. Baby heads by Antonio López García. The two ten-foot tall sculptures (one with eyes open, the other with eyes closed) look like the crazed exploits of a child with a penchant for pulling its dolls’ heads off—if the child happened to be 100 feet tall. One-part whimsical, one-part creepy, the heads sit on the Huntington Avenue Lawn in front of the museum.

2. Café and Cabaret: Talouse Lautrec’s Paris. I have a weird obsession with French painter and poster artist Talouse Lautrec and his dark depictions of the late nineteenth-century Paris. So you can imagine my happy surprise when I stumbled upon the mini-exhibition of Lautrec’s work in one of the many corridors of the MFA. Lautrec’s iconographic posters of Montmartre nightspots Le Chat Noir, Ambassadeurs and Divan Japonais line the hallway along with drawings of well-known entertainers and paintings of men and women both enjoying and becoming disillusioned by the Parisian nightlife. C’est magnifique!

3. The Secrets of Tomb 10A. I’m not a huge fan of looking at artifacts, but even I was impressed by the well-preserved (and well-restored) figurines, pieces of jewelry, and pottery dating back to 2000 B.C. for the tomb of Governor Djehutynakht originally found by MFA archaeologists in 1915. The exhibition is the fruit of nearly 100 years of labor and chronicles the process of excavating the tomb and conserving and cataloguing the objects. One highlight: a mummified head that scientists have determined belongs to either the governor or his wife. No gender rolezz?

4. Seeing songs weird TV thing. You make think that you’re a Madonna fan, but would you sing along to all 73 hours of her “Immaculate Collection” while being recorded? That’s what 30 of Madonna’s most die-hard devotees did in South African video artist Candace Breitz’s “Queen (A Portrait of Madonna).” From housewives to men in drag, bondage enthusiasts to a twenty-something in a tiara and fairy wings, the participants were captured belting out Madonna hits and played simultaneously on a wall of television screens in the exhibition “Seeing Songs,” a contemporary art show about visual representations of music. The effect is a somewhat dissonant but utterly charming chorus that can’t help but make you stop, watch and “Move to the Music.”

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