Thousands Flock to Overnight Exhibit, Activities at MFA

Boston’s nightlife just got the lifesaving electric jolt it has desperately needed.

This energy was the result of the #mfaNOW launch party, the first of four overnight parties hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate exhibitions in the museum’s contemporary wing, and to engage the Boston community in the art world. After the MFA officially closed its doors for the day on Saturday at 5 p.m., the doors to the Linden Family Wing entrance reopened at 6 p.m. and multicolored lights began dancing across the building’s walls as the #mfaNOW launch party began. Visitors of all ages were admitted for free and invited to participate in the many events and activities scheduled to last until 10 a.m. Sunday morning. The events ranged from lectures given by artists whose work was on exhibit to dancing the night away to the music from the DJ collective, Substructure.

But such an intricate event with such a range of activities took careful planning from museum staff and curators, who were inspired to find some way to celebrate the return of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, as well as the upcoming UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015 exhibition. The Clock is a constantly-playing 24-hour movie composed of film clips from both feature films and home movies, and UH-OH: Frances Stark is a new exhibit of contemporary art.

“We started with the fact that we had the Frances Stark exhibition and we were putting The Clock back on view,” said Kristen Hoskins, the curator of lectures, concerts, and courses at the MFA. “We haven’t had The Clock on view in five years, so it presented us with the opportunity to do overnight events. We wanted people to be able to see it overnight. So we started brainstorming about what the might look like, and we came up with these four nights.”

       An essential part of planning these four nights—three more #mfaNOW overnight parties will take place between now and December—was ensuring that there would be an activity for every kind of visitor that would still draw their attention to the new exhibitions that the contemporary wing had to offer. Hoskins explained that this ethos ultimately led to a surprising range of activities, many of which were actually suggested by partners who worked with the MFA on the event. For partners like Heartbreak Hill Running Company, The Clock served as inspiration for the late-night run around the museum grounds because, she explained, runners live by the clock.

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       The party proved to be so popular that the hourly capacity was quickly reached, and the line of visitors awaiting admittance snaked from the Linden Family Wing entrance all the way to the MFA’s better-known front entrance on Huntington Street. Hoskins and the organizers of the event were delighted that the turnout exceeded expectations—this was the MFA’s first overnight event of such a nature, she said, and they had no idea what to expect.

Although the line was long, those waiting were still able to amuse themselves by taking advantage of the four food trucks—Bonetown Burgers, Indulge India, North East of the Border, and Sheherazad—located in the museum parking lot. Shortly after passing the food trucks, those waiting were steps away from entering the museum itself. What lay inside was well worth the wait.

Once inside the museum, attendees were able to watch The Clock for the first time in five years, as well as visiting UH-OH: Frances Stark, an exhibit of contemporary art that opened to the public that night.

The UH-OH exhibit, organized by the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, features around 120 works by the renowned contemporary artist Frances Stark. Each work revolves around Stark’s exploration of self-expression in modern life and references a moment that each viewer can relate to: when they’ve know that they’ve gone too far, and cannot help by say “uh-oh.”

Throughout its opening night, UH-OH was packed with viewers who delighted in examining everything from Stark’s drawings and collages to video installations about Stark’s online sex life that elicited laughter and interaction from the audience.

After exploring the exhibits, many visitors returned to the dance floor, tried out the art vending machine—which dropped out a piece of art whenever someone put in $5—or perused the food truck area outside, which was filled with lawn games like a giant Connect4 and cornhole, as well as lawn chairs and long communal tables for diners.

The next #mfaNOW Overnight: College Edition is Oct. 14 and will feature another selection of carefully-curated activities specifically geared toward college students. Then, Boston’s student nightlife will be lit up as well.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

September 21, 2016