MFA opens first ‘crowdsourced’ exhibition

May 2, 2014
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“Boston Loves Impressionism,” an exhibit compiled with the help of 41,497 votes from Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) patrons, is on view now.

The exhibit’s most popular work is Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Houses at Auvers,” made in 1890, with 4,464 votes, followed by Claude Monet’s “Water Lillies” (1907) with 3,543. Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer” rounded out the top three.

The top three vote-getters hold a place of honor at the entrance of the exhibit, on view through May 26 in the Lois and Michael Torf Gallery, where they hang alongside 27 other works chosen by the public, as well as five loans from local collectors.

While renovations are taking place in the large Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery of European Impressionism, MFA Director Malcolm Rogers was looking for a way to keep many of the works on view, and had the idea to get the public involved in choosing which ones by asking them to share their favorites. The Rabb Gallery reopens June 4.

“This exhibition is a landmark for the museum and has provided new insight into Boston’s changing artistic tastes,” Rogers said in a press release. “While the public’s longstanding love of Monet is evident in the selection of 13 of the artist’s iconic paintings for the exhibition, Van Gogh won the number one spot.”

“The exhibition presents both an opportunity to engage our public in a new way and a chance to celebrate the extraordinary history of our collection,” Emily Beeny, the MFA’s assistant curator of European paintings, said in that same release. “Bostonians loved Impressionism in the 19th century and—as the response we’ve seen proves—they still do today.”

The public was given the opportunity to cast their votes on a group of 50 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works from the MFA’s collection for 24 days early this year.

Voting began on Jan. 6, when fans selected their favorite works from a different themed group each week, including seascapes, landscapes and still-lifes and portraits.

In the final hours of the last day of voting, Degas’ “Little Dancer” came from behind to earn a place in the top three, edging out a victory by 30 votes over Monet’s “Boulevard Saint-Denis, Argenteuil, in Winter” (1875)—propelled by social media appeals from its fans.

The exhibit opened in February.

The 30 works chosen by the public represent eight artists: Claude Monet leads the pack with 13, followed by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (six), Edgar Degas (four), Vincent van Gogh (two), Gustave Caillebotte (two), Mary Stevenson Cassatt (one), Camille Pissarro (one) and Paul Cézanne (one).

Everyone who voted received a voucher for free MFA admission for two.

For more information, see mfa.org.

From press materials.

“Houses at Auvers” (above) by Vincent van Gogh, part of the “Boston Loves Impressionism” exhibit. (Photo Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

“Houses at Auvers” (above) by Vincent van Gogh, part of the “Boston Loves Impressionism” exhibit. (Photo Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

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