“Maximalism” is having a moment. But what does it really mean? In fashion and design circles, it is thrown around almost as frequently and hollowly as all variations of “curator”, the curator Jenelle Porter joked at the press preview for Less is a Bore: Maximalist Art and Design, her show at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (until 22 September).

The exhibition’s starting point rewards knowledge of a battle of 20th century architectural maxims that began with Mies van der Rohe adopting “Less is More” as his mantra in 1947 to describe a rigidly pared-down Minimalist vision. In 1963, Robert Venturi then wittily retorted, “Less is a bore”, praising fluid design that takes on qualities and needs of its locale rather than blindly obeying the inflexible principles of an intellectual movement.

Stepping into the first of four galleries devoted to the show and pausing in front of a large-scale Sol LeWitt line drawing from 1976, faithfully reproduced and installed by the ICA staff using the artist’s set of directions, I anticipated a summer fling bent on attracting crowds of Boston Seaport visitors who wanted busy, decorative backdrops for their live Instagram stories. Read More…

Image Credit: Nathalie du Pasquier, Untitled (around 1984), marker and collage. Courtesy of the artist

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The Civil Rights division of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office is investigating an incident at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston that occurred on 16 May, in which a group of honours middle school students and their chaperones on a visit from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Boston reported being racially profiled and harassed by museum patrons, volunteers and staff. The office contacted the school and museum after media reports about the trip, says a spokeswoman for the attorney general Maura Healey.

Together with their teachers, the students, all of whom identify as persons of colour, filed a complaint in person that day, before abruptly leaving the museum. The group reported being followed uncomfortably closely by security guards, and while on their way to an African art gallery hearing a visitor loudly and offensively comment, “Never mind, there are [expletive] black kids in the way”, among other instances of harassment. Read More…

Image Credit: Michael Matthews/Alamy

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Gender-Bending Fashion at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston sets out to emphasise that well before Generation Z mainstreamed gender disruption, there was already an extensive history of designers, celebrities and social activists consciously embracing gender fluidity through provocative and often sumptuous sartorial choices.

Just inside, viewers are given a definition of gender-bending and wall texts offering a crash course on relevant terms such as agender, gender queer and transsexual. The show’s curator, Michelle Tolini Finamore, clearly intends for these scholarly frameworks to add weight to the fun that lies beyond when, stepping into a long rectangular gallery, you feel as though you are both at and in an elite haute couture show, sashaying down the runway to anthems like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

Jet black walls provide backdrops for skinny mannequins posing on podiums backlit in triangles of neon light and plexiglass. The exhibition design succeeds in making the show immersive but also risks trivializing its content, which thoroughly examines how controversial clothing choices (such as 20th-century women daring to “cross dress” in pants and breaking the law at times to do so), have played out amid shifts in how Western society regards gender and sexuality, patriarchy and power. Read More…

 

Image Credit: Courtesy of the MFA, Boston/Michael Blanchard

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Standing on the brick-paved Essex Street Pedestrian Mall in Salem, Massachusetts, and adjusting his purple silk scarf, Dan Monroe, who has served as the Peabody Essex Museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo executive director and CEO for over 25 years, gestured to the institution’s new expansion. “We have never believed that new buildings are the answer to transforming museums,” he provocatively said to the group gathered before him.

 

But with its collection of 1.8 million works, PEM had literally run out of exhibition space. Following a successful $650 million campaign, the museum hired New York–based firm Ennead Architects to design its new 40,000-square-foot wing. Set to open in September, the expansion marks the eighth extension of the museum since its 1799 founding by early American mariners. (These seafaring individuals were looking for a way to publicly display curiosities brought back from perilous voyages.) With this upcoming expansion, PEM will become one of the 10 largest museums in the U.S. in terms of size, collection, and endowment. Read More…

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