Boston’s Best Art Museums

Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art

Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art

In honor of May being National Museum Month, I thought I’d share some of Boston’s best art museums. From the ancient to the avant-garde and everything in between, Boston has plenty to offer art buffs of all stripes. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) – The MFA is Boston’s major art mecca for traditionalists. In addition to a vast collection of art spanning across centuries and around the globe, the museum also hosts several film festivals per year (including the Boston LGBT Film Festival running now through May 17). If you have a Bank of America card, you can use it get free general admission during the first full weekend of each month.

2. Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) – This striking architectural fixture on Boston’s water front opened just a couple of years ago, becoming Boston’s first new art museum in a century. Filled with an array of contemporary art from around the world, the ICA also hosts lectures, film screenings, and performances. The theater is truly a unique and beautiful experience, as it’s full length windows give an up-close view of the lapping at the sides of the building.

3. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – Filled with beautiful paitings, furniture, tapestries, and sculpture from the collection of Isabella Steward Gardner, this museum boosts a beautiful European courtyard where they hold chamber music concerts on occasion. If you happen to be named Isabella, you’re in luck. In honor of the museum’s namesake, Isabellas are admitted to the museum free for life. Or if you’re visiting the MFA and the ISG in the same two day period, you can get $2 off admission.

4. Arthur M. Sackler Museum – While many of Harvard’s other art museums are closed for renovation, the Sackler Museum remains open, showing a range of ancient, Islamic, Asian, and later Indian art. Here you’ll find a Buddhist cave-temple sculpture, Chinese and Korean ceramics, calligraphy from India, Iran, and Turkey, Greek vases, Roman sculptures, and more.

5. DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park – Although this museum is outside of Boston in Lincoln, it is well worth the trip, especially on a warm spring day, when you can wander the grounds and explore the sculpture park (dogs are also welcome on a leash). DeCordova also participates in BofA’s Museums on Us program, so show your card on the first full weekend of the month to score free general admission.

6. Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) – I couldn’t resist including this one, because of the museum’s tagline: “art too bad to be ignored.” There are misshapen portraits and mediocre landscapes unlike anything you’ve since sixth grade art class. But there’s something quirky and comforting about their mediocrity. The museum has two basement locations: the Dedham Community Theatre and the Somerville Theatre. Since the exhibits are small (about 30-40 pieces at a time), it’s best to combine your trip with a screening at the Somerville Theatre or Dedham Community Theatre. Admission is free with your ticket stub.

Stay tuned! Next week, I’ll cover family-friendly museums in and around Boston.

Flickr photo courtesy of bbanauch

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About the Author ()

A contributing writer/blogger for, Susan Johnston lives and writes near Fenway Park. She loves exploring the city and has also contributed to The Boston Globe,, and many other places.

Comments (4)

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  1. Jennifer Aubin says:

    Hi, thanks for the article. Just as an FYI, the Harvard Art Museum/Arthur M. Sackler Museum has recently been completely reinstalled:

    In 2008, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum was reinstalled with works from the Harvard Art Museum’s three museums — Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler — for a unique exhibition entitled Re-View. The survey of approximately 600 objects includes major and familiar works and features Western art from antiquity to the turn of the 20th century, Islamic and Asian art, and European and American art from 1900 to the present. Re-View is on long-term view at the Sackler Museum and provides a selected, ongoing display of the Harvard Art Museum’s collection while its building at 32 Quincy Street is closed for renovation.

  2. Hi, I’ve been to Boston a million times and my brother lives there. It’s actually one of my favorite cities, but have never been to the museums, how horrible of me:)
    I’m going back in a few months and I’m going to make sure to check them out!

    marina k. villatoro’s last blog post..Daily Guatemala – Tribute To Antigua’s Carpets #4

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