BOSTON — The Museum of Fine Arts opened its doors Friday to a select crowd, offering hundreds of people, including Massachusetts politicians and journalists from all over the world, the first look at the new Art of the Americas wing with a dedication ceremony.
Amidst all the back-patting and congratulations, Rep. Michael Capuano got on stage to say he wasn’t there to celebrate the opening of a building. For him the new wing changes the MFA’s long-standing reputation for being inaccessible.
“When people like me drove past the MFA,” Capuano said, “we may as well have seen a sign out there that says, ‘You are not welcome here.’ ”
Not anymore, says Capuano.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Sen. Scott Brown were among other big names in attendance. The general public gets its first glimpse on Nov. 20.
Following the dedication ceremony, art journalists toured the wing’s 53 new galleries. The four floors are designed to be experienced chronologically, from bottom to top — a sort of trip through time.
Matthew Baker, Boston Magazine’s art editor, has been going to the MFA for years and years and said the change is dramatic.
“Seeing all of the American arts, which were kind of scattered around, put in one place, it really is incredibly cohesive,” Baker said. “It’s an amazing repository of American arts from ancient times up til now, and it really is almost like a whole new American arts museum in the city, and it’s going to be a great draw, both for the MFA and the city of Boston.”
Most everyone seemed impressed, though some tempered their positive responses with disappointment, like Christopher Knight, chief art critic for the Los Angeles Times.
“I’m not really surprised that the top floor, the 20th century floor, is really the weakest,” Knight said. “The museum has really always had a history of caution when it comes to the art of the last 100 years or so and it really shows up on the top floor. Especially after the two middle floors, the 18th and 19th century, which are just wow spaces.”
Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of story said the general public gets its first glimpse of the new wing Nov. 2. In fact, it is Nov. 20.