Though a city rich in traditional Americana and American history Boston also has a foothold in the world of contemporary art. The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), though a 70 year old institution, is now located in a striking new building on Boston’s waterfront. The experience of visiting the museum is as much colored by the artistic framing of the water views and the posture of the building almost hovering over the water as it is by the artwork displayed on the interior walls. During my weekend visit I saw four exhibits as well as excerpts from the ICA’s permanent collection. Now on view are “Bourgeois in Boston” comprised of a group of works by Louise Bourgeois from the collection of Cambridge, MA collector and ICA trustee Barbara Lee; Dave Muller’s “As Below, So Above” an installation on the Art Wall at the entrance to the museum tracing the development of rock music; an installation work by Kader Attia’s as part of the ICA’s emerging artists series entitled “Momentum 9”, and “Design Life Now” an exhibition that exhibits notable works of American design from the past three years ranging from clothing to sports equipment and everything in between. Now on view from the permanent collection are photographs by Rineke Dijkstra, a film Julian Opie, and a stunning mirrored glass piece by Josiah McElheny.
On the other side of the spectrum you can take a step back in time by visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on the Fenway. In Ms. Gardner’s former home which was opened to the public as a museum in 1903 one can see precious works of art ranging from portraits by esteemed portraitist John Singer Sargent to works by Titian, Botticelli, Giotto, Pierro della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Rubens, Veronese, Raphael and Rembrandt. A visit to this museum, complete with an impeccably landscaped interior courtyard is like taking a trip to a fine European city in the breadth of offerings and richness of historical importance of these works. Interspersed with these masters are Ms. Gardner’s vast collections of antique lace, Asian porcelain and screens, and antiques from her world travels. In addition to these items is a contemporary art exhibition space on the first floor.
If you are seeking a unique contrast in works of art I recommend a visit to both museums as well the the Museum of Fine arts just beside the Gardner.