The new venue, originally built in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival style, now includes 30,000 gross square feet of space and triples the museum's exhibition areas. (Photographs by Gary Wayne Gilbert)
The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College, which has presented critically acclaimed exhibitions for more than two decades, this month reveals its new, world-class space at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue.
An important cultural resource for the University, as well as for visitors from Boston and around the world, the McMullen's exhibitions rival those of far larger, more comprehensive museums and provide an intimate, and often exclusive, view of diverse and outstanding work. The Museum has been recognized nationally and internationally for groundbreaking interdisciplinary exhibitions on artists such as Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Georges Rouault, Wifredo Lam and Gustave Courbet; and for exhibitions that feature classical archaeology and material culture and showcase decorative arts. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs.
Funded in part by a gift to Boston College from the McMullen Family Foundation, the new venue, built in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival style, now includes 30,000 gross square feet of space and triples the Museum's exhibition areas.
“The renovation and expansion of this landmark Renaissance Revival building has created a state-of-the-art facility that will enhance the McMullen’s role as a leading presenter of exhibitions of international importance and multi-use spaces for displaying Old Master and American paintings from the Museum’s collection,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “With this building, the McMullen joins the ranks of this country’s finest university museum facilities.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J.; to the Patrons of the McMullen, led by C. Michael Daley; and to faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of Boston College who contributed to the vision for the project and supported it from its inception," Netzer said. "I particularly thank the McMullen Family Foundation for their generous lead gift to the project, and Jacqueline McMullen in particular, for being the most wise, informed, engaged, and gracious benefactor with whom a director could hope to collaborate.”
“The McMullen Museum of Art has a well-earned reputation for organizing and hosting world-class exhibitions that bring scholars from around campus and across the globe into conversation about the visual arts and the humanities more broadly,” said Boston College Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley.
"The McMullen has over the last two decades enriched our campus culture and attracted audiences from around the Boston area and well beyond," he said. "The Museum’s marvelous new home on the Brighton Campus is cause for campus-wide celebration as it affords expanded and glorious new space for future exhibitions."
The new venue features main galleries on the second floor, a smaller gallery and support space on the third, and a large rooftop terrace. A University conference center with reception rooms on the first floor displays Old Master and nineteenth-century American paintings from the Museum’s permanent collection.
“The journey to establish a permanent home for the McMullen Museum of Art has culminated with great excitement, producing a magnificent new and expanded state-of-the-art facility which will afford the McMullen the opportunity to attract world-class exhibitions and programs to our campus, to better serve and inform our students, faculty, and the Greater Boston community,” said 1958 alumnus C. Michael Daley, chair of the Museum's Patrons’ Committee and a parent of 1980 and 1988 BC graduates.
Beginning in 2014, architectural planning and design firm DiMella Shaffer reconfigured the existing 23,000-square-foot space and designed a three-story, 7,000-square-foot glass addition. The renovation preserved the exterior façade, and complements the architecture of the original building, which was designed by architectural firm Maginnis and Walsh in 1927.
The two main exhibition galleries greatly enlarge the Museum’s previous temporary exhibition space. The Daley Family Gallery on the second floor—named through a gift from C. Michael and Janet Daley—is 4,800 square feet. An open-plan sculpture gallery on the third floor leads to the 925-square-foot Monan Gallery, named through a gift from 1978 BC alumnus Christopher Toomey in honor of BC Chancellor and former President J. Donald Monan, S.J. Movable gallery walls allow the spaces to be tailored to the needs of each exhibition.
The glass atrium offers generous natural light and views of the formal lawn and grounds. It also showcases a 127-year-old triptych by American stained glass artist John La Farge (1835–1910), a recent gift to the University from McMullen Museum Patrons William Vareika, a 1974 alumnus, and his wife, Alison, who are the parents of 2009 and 2015 BC graduates. The gift was made in honor of BC President William P. Leahy, S.J., Chancellor J. Donald Monan, S.J., the late William B. Neenan, S.J., who was vice president and special assistant to the president, and John La Farge, S.J., the artist’s son.
The triptych features a preaching Christ, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Paul. The three panels—each of which weighs approximately 150 pounds—underwent fifteen months of restoration in 2013–15 and were the centerpiece of an exhibition on La Farge presented last fall at the McMullen Museum. (View photos of the installation of the triptych here).
In addition, a temporary exhibition of eight recent paintings by Boston College Professor of Art Andrew Tavarelli, titled Global Convergences, has been installed in the McMullen’s new atrium.
The new museum is made possible through the support of longtime benefactors and namesakes, including the late John McMullen, who served on the Boston College Board of Trustees, and his wife, Jacqueline, who shared a deep interest in art and collecting. Mr. McMullen was a naval architect, businessman, marine engineer, and a former owner of the New Jersey Devils and Houston Astros.
“The new facility provides a more welcoming and accessible venue with expanded features for members of the community,” said Jacqueline McMullen, whose family’s connection to Boston College spans three generations. “We hope to share the Museum’s groundbreaking exhibitions with an even wider audience.
“Our hopes are for a university museum that focuses on scholarly research and on educating the next generation of museum goers, curators, and trustees. The McMullen Family Foundation has always had the education of students and the public at large as one of its primary goals. Through this new museum we endeavor to foster a heightened appreciation and enthusiasm for art among BC and other Boston-area students.”
The inaugural exhibition at the McMullen's new venue, Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, is the first to showcase highlights of medieval and Renaissance illumination in the Boston area, through collections that comprise one of the most important ensembles of illuminated manuscripts anywhere in North America. Beyond Words, which is the continent’s largest exhibition of these works, will be on view from September 12–December 11, 2016.
In another first, the exhibition will be displayed at three concurrent Boston venues: the McMullen, Harvard University’s Houghton Library, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Each venue will highlight one of the three principal contexts for the production of books in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and related developments in design, script, and decoration.
An opening celebration at the McMullen Museum—which will preview Beyond Words and welcome local community members, friends of the museum, and BC alumni will be held on September 10 and 11 from noon to 5 p.m., with lectures at 2 p.m. each day by McMullen director Nancy Netzer (“The McMullen: Building a University Museum outside the Box”) on Saturday and Jeffrey F. Hamburger, a curator of the Beyond Words exhibition, (“Devotion and Invention in a Mass of St. Gregory by the Master of the Houghton Miniatures (a.k.a. Hugo van der Goes?)”) on Sunday.
The inaugural exhibition will be accompanied by a range of free public programming throughout its run, as well as a three-day, multi-venue international conference.
In addition, the McMullen is launching a student ambassador program at the new venue that employs Boston College undergraduates in capacities ranging “from greeters to tweeters,” Netzer noted, and a variety of new programming for BC students as well as for children and adults of all ages.
Formerly housed in Devlin Hall, the McMullen Museum is located on BC’s 65-acre Brighton Campus. It continues to be free and open to the public seven days a week, with newly expanded opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Docent tours are offered at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and are also arranged upon request.
Read a Q&A with McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer here.
—Rosanne Pellegrini | News & Public Affairs