At least two art museums in Boston, the Museum Of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art, have announced that admission on Tuesday will be free as a service to a city still dealing with the trauma of the explosions Monday at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Admission to the MFA is normally $23-25, while admission to the ICA is normally $10-15.
According to its website, the MFA is currently featuring exhibitions of samurai armor, Bruce Davidson’s photographs of East Harlem in the 1960s, and Paul Cezanne’s The Large Bathers, on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many, many other offerings. The ICA, meanwhile, has an exhibit featuring San Francisco graffiti artist Barry McGee and an installation by visual artist Haegue Yang that incorporates trees as well as sculptures and collages.
Both museums announced the day of free admission on Twitter in similar terms: The MFA said, “The MFA will be free today. We hope the Museum will be a place of respite for our community.” The ICA said, “ICA admission is free for all visitors today. We hope the museum will offer a place of community & reflection.” They hashtagged their announcement, “#WeAreBoston.”
The decision is reminiscent of one made by some New York museums after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Back then, NPR’s Susan Stamberg reflected on the issue of art as a source of comfort after she visited the Phillips Collection in Washington, where the arrival of some of the elements for an exhibition of French paintings had been delayed by the airport restrictions in place at the time. While not all the planned works were there, Stamberg had this to say:
What is on display is a cornucopia of 19th-century beauty — and, yes, comfort. Paintings from museums and collectors in Paris, Orleans, Amsterdam, Boston, St. Louis, Denver — so many places. Paintings by the French masters — bruised pears and an exuberance of flowers by Courbet, two white Manet peonies in close-up that swirl like satin ballgowns. Van Gogh is there: Tahitian oranges that look as if Gauguin painted them with sunset; and moonlight colors some Cezanne apples. Simple objects we all know — plums, onions, a paring knife, shoes — celebrated in oil paint by artists who were making revolution with their quick brush strokes. Seeing them now is a reminder of the ordinary things that make up and pleasure our lives — and, through art, last.