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Museum of Bad Art :: Boston, Massachusetts

February 26, 2010 by  
Category: Attractions

Everyone knows about the Louvre, Tate Modern, and The Met. But for those lesser known artists (lesser known because they kind of sucked) there is the Museum of Bad Art. Housed in two Boston area galleries in Massachusetts (the first in Dedham the second in Somerville), the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) features what it calls “art too bad to be ignored”. Opened in 1994 by Scott Wilson, Marie Jackson, and Jerry Reilly, MOBA began with one specific work entitled “Lucy in the Field with Flowers”; a work commissioned by the family of Anna Lally Keane which did not turn out quite as expected. Wilson found the painting by a Dumpster and originally wanted it only for its frame. Reilly convinced him otherwise and a collection of bad art was born.

Many have criticized MOBA for being anti-art, an argument its creators and curators vehemently refute. Not just any bad art is accepted. For a piece to be included it needs to have serious artistic intent. Items in the collection are works that represent a genuine attempt on the part of the artist to create something of merit; however unfortunately falling far from their mark. Some of the more interesting pieces that have been acquired are “The Haircut” (part of the Unseen Forces collection), “On the Shore at Sunset” (from Unlikely Landscapes, Seascapes, and Still Lifes), and “Jerez the Clown” (from Portraiture). The Haircut is a chilling free form sculpture that incorporates dangerously sharp dangling scissors, a decrepit barber’s chair, and a mysterious clump of cat fur. It evokes the childhood fear of the first haircut while soothing the observer with the gentle thoughts of kittens. Unclear with the dimensionality usually required of a landscape piece, the unknown artist who created On the Shore at Sunset melds a field of emotions. The anger of the crab, the happy smile of the dog, and the fear of the drowning swimmers are all immediately obvious and perplexing. Higgins, the artist responsible for Jerez the Clown, expresses in vivid clarity his life long struggles with coulrophobia. You can see the rage of the artist at his disability expressed in the glaring soulless eyes of his subject.

Although MOBA has approximately 500 pieces in total, due to limited exhibition space only 20 to 35 are on display at any one time. Hours of visitation are determined by the hours held by the respective theaters they are shown in, so check ahead for specific times and availability. The original gallery in Dedham is free to guests; however the Somerville location does require a paid ticket (between $5 and $8) to their theatre for admission. An experience like no other, the Museum of Bad Art showcases the best of the worst in all of us. It is a living testament to the world that even when you have failed miserably, don’t dream it, be it!

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