The 9 Best Art Galleries in Boston
With eclectic artists’ guilds and traditional family-owned old master spaces, Boston has been establishing itself as one of the most important areas for the arts in New England. The capital of Massachusetts provides a spectrum of art experiences in its grand public museums and small independent galleries. Here is a look at the top nine places to appreciate art during your time in Boston.
A visit to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) can be an overwhelming experience, as the collection is vast. The MFA’s accumulation of approximately 450,000 objects ranges from Renaissance and Baroque masters to delicate examples of Native American crafts. American decorative arts are liberally represented, especially those from New England in the years before the Civil War, as is Asian art; its Japanese art section is arguably the most sensational outside of Japan. Although the MFA emphasizes its focus on traditions outside the Western canon – with galleries highlighting art from Oceania, Africa and the ancient Americas – it by no means ignores Europe, with a considerable amount of attention paid to the Impressionist movement.
Established in 1980, the Robert Klein Gallery ranks among the world’s most distinguished showrooms of fine art photography. The gallery maintains an extensive and alternating inventory of 19th-century, 20th-century and contemporary photographs from emerging talent and established masters of the art. Early exhibitions at the space on Newbury Street have included works by renowned photographers such as Annie Liebowitz, Diane Arbus, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Sally Mann. The Robert Klein Gallery also has a strong international reputation, participating in a variety of art fairs. A small and intimate space, this fourth-floor boutique gallery is undoubtedly one of the major players in the art of photography.
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), located on the waterfront in Boston, is undoubtedly a gem along the Harborwalk – an inviting public walkway around the Boston Harbor with its parks, public art, seating areas, restaurants and more. Perfect for contemporary art lovers, the ICA is organized in sections: one large rotating exhibition that changes every few months, a few smaller rotating displays and its permanent collection. Each exhibit aims is distinctive and is usually themed around the work of one artist or a particular topic. Housed in a modern building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, it offers outstanding views of the Boston seaport and skyline. If you’ve still got some time to kill after this gallery, be sure to check out our list of things to do in Boston.
For a more grassroots experience in Boston, head to the SoWa Art + Design District – an area with more than 20 galleries and 80 artist studios. The members of the non-profit SoWa Artists Guild are an eclectic bunch, all originating from different parts of the world and experimenting with different mediums. The guild’s objective is to promote the individuality and diversity of the artists working within the flagship space at the center of the SoWa Art + Design District, and to offer visitors a more personal approach to experiencing art first-hand. With more than 300 artists represented, it is recognized as one of New England’s largest artistic communities.
Established in the year 2000, the Galerie d’Orsay sits in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay and is home to an extensive collection of artworks that span six centuries. While the gallery features pieces by Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Dalí and others, it also exhibits internationally renowned living artists. Priding itself on its strong relationships with major collections and institutions throughout the world while simultaneously collaborating directly with artists’ estates, the Galerie d’Orsay consistently provides prominent exhibitions for natives and visitors of Boston.
Since 1977, Gallery NAGA has been exhibiting and selling contemporary art. Its primary focus is on paintings, but photographs, prints and sculptures are also on display. NAGA also has a long history of showcasing the best studio furniture in America, highlighting the most notable practitioners in the field through its prolific exhibitions. As Gallery NAGA puts it, studio furniture “transcends both art and design. It is beautiful and functional, and even more, becomes something visceral.”
Located in a brownstone on Newbury Street, Vose Galleries houses the largest inventory of 18th-, 19th- and early-20th-century American realist paintings in New England. All five floors of this beautiful space are dedicated to fine art, including the living and dining rooms, which are furnished with antiques. Since the founding of Vose Galleries in 1841, the Vose family has handled more than 34,000 American paintings and has helped public and private institutions build their collections. The gallery has been passed down through six generations of the Vose family, making it the oldest family-owned art gallery in America.
The prestigious Krakow Witkin Gallery specializes in Postmodern art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints. The gallery showcases emerging and established regional, national and international artists, with a focus on Minimalist and conceptually driven works. Their catalog features the likes of Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt and Jasper Johns. The gallery also hosts an AIDS benefit each November and December; people can buy donated artworks for $350, with all funds given to charity.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum lies in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston and houses a world-renowned art collection of European, American and Asian works, over 7,000 letters from over 1,000 correspondents, and original Dante manuscripts. The building itself, with its intimate atmosphere and interior courtyard are equally impressive. Ever-changing horticultural displays with architectural and sculptural elements create a strong interplay between the courtyard and museum gallery offerings, establishing tangible connections of synergy between art and landscape. Along with scholarly exhibitions, the museum also hosts lectures, family programs and symposia. Artists-in-residence are also invited to live at the museum and host contemporary performances and exhibitions.