date published: March 24, 2008

Sure, boston boasts great art from all periods of history— just check out the outstanding ancient Egyptian collection at the Museum of Fine Arts or the rare Renaissance and Baroque treasures housed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. But where can one find funky modern art—that is, anything created from the late 19th century on, beginning with the Impressionist movement—or cutting-edge contemporary art from the last 50 years of the post- modern canon? For those with avant-garde tastes, here’s a handy guide to where the black beret-and-turtleneck-wearing crowd congregates in Beantown.

Museums, great and small
The aforementioned Museum of Fine Arts may be an encyclopedic institution, containing art from the ancient world up through today, but it is only in recent years that it has gained a reputation for championing the latest generation of contemporary artists. For evidence of this, look no further than the eye-popping installation by Scottish artist Jim Lambie temporarily gracing the hallway of the museum’s west wing. Add to this the MFA’s renowned collections of French Impressionist paintings and works by American and European modern masters, and you have a hotspot where even the local tattooed and pierced art students wouldn’t mind being seen.

Of course, the latest art star on the scene is the shiny new home of the Institute of Contemporary Art on the South Boston waterfront. Little more than a year old, the Diller + Scofidio-designed building has itself become as much an attraction as the ICA’s new permanent collection and its ever-rotating displays of provocative, groundbreaking works of art, which currently includes the show The World as a Stage, a collection of video art, installations and other interactive pieces organized by the Tate Modern in London.

new Expo on the Block
Starting a new tradition in a history-rich city can be a daunting task, but sometimes it helps to have a little experience establishing traditions to get the ball rolling. Having presented the Boston International Fine Art Show over the last 11 years, producers Fusco & Four look to duplicate its success with the more narrowly focused AD 20/21: Art & Design of the 20th & 21st Centuries. Running April 3–6 at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Cyclorama building in the South End—including a Gala Preview Party April 3 from 5:30–9:30 p.m. benefiting Boston Architectural College in the Back Bay—this grand exposition features 40 galleries and design exhibitors from all over the United States and Europe showcasing a dazzling array of furniture, glassware, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs from the last 108 years. The works on display cover such notable art and design movements as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Scandinavian Design and Mid-Century Modern, among others, giving a nice encapsulation of art history since 1900. Other weekend events include a New Collectors’ Night April 4 from 5–9 p.m.; a lecture by Christy MacLear, Executive Director of the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Conn. at the BCA’s Roberts Studio Theatre April 6 at 12:30 p.m.; and a slide presentation by author Arnold Schwartzman entitled London Art Deco that same day at 2:30 p.m. Refer to special events listing.

Boston is not the only place to find cool new works. Travel on Route 2 towards the western suburbs and you’ll find the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, a bastion of contemporary New England art. The unique-to-the-region sculpture park attracts visitors year-round with its eclectic collection, including such notable entries as Gail Simpson’s and Aristotle Georgiades’ Trojan Piggybank, Jim

Dine’s Two Big Black Hearts and Nina Levy’s whimsical Big Baby, a giant fiberglass model of a diaper-clad infant. The museum itself is currently exhibiting the temporary shows Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children and Photographs of Children from the DeCordova Permanent Collection, which both highlight photography of children from the 20th and 21st centuries. Refer to museums listings.

In the Galleries
The best way to combine a museum experience with a shopping excursion is by visiting some of Boston’s myriad art galleries. And there’s probably no better area to do this than on famed Newbury Street. Not only is it known for its high-end shopping, but it is chock full of excellent art spaces, many of which showcase modern and contemporary art and design. Long-time purveyors include Pucker Gallery, which debuts new paintings of Israel by Jeffrey Hessing on April 5; International Poster Gallery, which currently features the show Rare Modernist Posters; and the gallery at the Society of Arts and Crafts, which highlights the latest in the decorative arts (refer to galleries listings). Also, be sure to check out the current show Kinesthetics: Modernist Design 1925–2000 at McCormick Gallery at Boston Architectural College (320 Newbury St., 617-262-5000), which runs in conjunction with the AD 20/21 art expo in the South End (see sidebar, left).

Speaking of the South End, this artsy area is home to some of the best galleries in the city for new works, including the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, Bromfield Art Gallery and Boston Sculptors Gallery (refer to galleries listings), as well as such cutting-edge up-and-comers as Space 242 (242 E. Berkeley Street, 2nd floor) and Pinkcomma Gallery (81B Wareham St., 617-426-4466).

On Campus
It makes sense that America’s biggest college town would have many centers of higher learning that are also hotbeds of creativity. Notable campus institutions that feature modern art include the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge and Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum (refer to museums listings), as well as Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (24 Quincy St., Cambridge, 617-495-3251). Many area schools are also home to galleries that often feature the next generation of art stars, including the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Grossman Gallery (230 The Fenway, 617-369-3718), the Trustman Art Gallery at Simmons College (300 The Fenway, 617-521-2268) and Massachusetts College of Art’s Bakalar and Paine galleries (621 Huntington Ave., 617-879-7333).

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