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An art lover’s guide to the best Boston galleries

When the sea beckons, you grab a towel and hit the beach. Should an urban hike appeal, you don walking shoes, order a coffee to go and take to the streets. But if you crave a cultural escape, these Boston galleries should do the trick. Here are a few of the best, to assist art lovers in their quest for a culture fix.


Institute of Contemporary Art

A dramatic ribbon of glass and metal set on Boston’s HarborWalk, the ICA is a work of art in itself. Combine these elements with sweeping harbour views and you have an unparalleled artistic experience on the waterfront. One of America’s oldest contemporary museums, the ICA has a who’s who quality to its collection, giving nods to Warhol and Gilbert & George. Whether it’s through film, gallery discussion, performance or visuals, the ICA engages your senses in the most unique manner.

Museum of Fine Arts

Although its outdoor, larger-than-life bronze babyheads by Antonio Lopez Garcia might startle some, the nearly 450,000 works inside are even more captivating. Spanning ancient Egyptian art right through to contemporary works, the MFA offers gilded Italian Renaissance icons, one of the largest Monet collections outside of Paris, musical instruments, jewellery, sculptures, paintings and furniture from around the globe. Make sure to visit the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, which showcases a range of different media including performance, film and music.

Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

You could easily spend an entire day in the Gardener Museum, exploring the vast collection of philanthropist and art patron Isabella Stewart Gardener. Built in the style of a 15th century Venetian palace, wander through the impressive rooms and explore more than 2,500 art objects, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, Botticelli, Raphael, and Matisse. An interior flowering courtyard with trees and sculptures creates the ideal setting to relax and take in your surroundings. Wondering why some of the frames hang empty? They’re placeholders of the famous 1990 heist, the largest property theft in recorded history. Want to steal the show yourself? Entrance is free to anyone named Isabella.

Peabody Essex Museum

Rooted in Salem’s maritime history of captains showcasing “cabinets of curiosities” from far-off lands, PEM offers a glimpse into the vast world beyond. Its collection dates from the 1700s onwards, and features paintings, sculptures, photographs and textiles from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, as well as a diverse variety of different cultures. Aimed at opening dialogue between creative voices the world over, the collection features everything from portraits and pots to cross-country photography.


John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

With Boston’s heart strongly embracing this 35th U.S. president, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum celebrates the life and legacy of this famous local politician. You’ll travel back into the recreated world of the early ‘60s and experience first hand his 1,000 days in office with rooms of multimedia exhibits, as well as First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s artwork, clothing and photographs.

Whether it’s contemporary or classic, painting or performance, there’s a world of art for everyone at these Boston galleries.


Written by Cheryl Fenton

Image credits:

The Koch gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts © the MFA Boston

ICA Remanence by Matthew Richie © Geoff Hargadon

JFK Presidential Library and Museum © Tom Fitzsimmons:John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Isabella Gardner Museum © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum