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Museum invites public to vote for their favorite Impressionist works in first crowdsourced exhibit
Water Lilies, 1907, Claude Monet. One of 17 “On the Water” works eligible for selection.

BOSTON, MASS.- For the first time ever, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, invites the public to choose their most-loved Impressionist works for a special exhibition, Boston Loves Impressionism. From January 6–26, 2014, participants can “Share the Love” at and on Facebook by selecting their favorite MFA works from a different themed group each week—“On the Water” (seascapes), “From the Land” (landscapes and still lifes) and “Of the People” (portraits). Offering the public a selection of 50 works from the MFA’s Impressionist collection, choices include masterpieces by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Gustave Caillebotte. The top 30 picks will be displayed in a special exhibition opening Valentine’s Day weekend in the MFA’s Lois and Michael Torf Gallery, with the public’s “Top 10 Favorites” highlighted by a heart on the wall label. Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA, came up with the idea to let the public select works for an exhibition while the MFA’s Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery of European Impressionism undergoes renovations. The choice is entirely up to voters. Boston Loves Impressionism is sponsored by Toshiba.

“While the Museum’s popular European Impressionism Gallery is closed for renovation, we thought it would be exciting to let the public choose which of their favorite works would remain on view,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “This is the first time we’ve ever presented an exhibition selected by the public. Boston has long loved Impressionism, and voters have the opportunity to write the next chapter in the story of Boston’s passion for the artistic movement that has played such an important role in the MFA’s history.”

From January 6-29, and the Museum’s Facebook page will direct fans to vote for their favorite Impressionist works from the MFA’s collection. Museum visitors can also access voting through their mobile phones by scanning heart-shaped QR codes found throughout the building. Participants may vote once a day. Each week, participants will be served a new selection of works, and the 30 top vote getters will earn a spot in the exhibition. Then, the top 10 will be part of a finals round of the best works. After voting ends, Museum curators and designers will have just two weeks to install the exhibition and tell the story of Impressionism. On Valentine’s Day weekend, the exhibition—and the public’s favorite Impressionist works––will be revealed. Fans who cast a vote will be emailed an invitation for two to the exhibition.

Share the Love and Cast a Vote Timeline:

Monday, January 6–Sunday, January 12:
The first category is “On the Water,” offering 17 waterscapes for the public to choose

Monday, January 13–Sunday, January 19
Voting for “From the Land” (17 landscapes and still lifes)

Monday, January 20–Sunday, January 26
Voting for “Of the People” (16 figures and portraits)

Monday, January 27–Wednesday, January 29
Final round: the Top 10 vote getters, from the previous three weeks, compete

Friday, February 14
Exhibition opens and fans that voted receive free admission

Saturday and Sunday, February 15 and 16
Special Valentine’s Day weekend activities for fans that voted

In the “On the Water” category, the 17 seascapes and water views include Monet’s famed Water Lilies (1907), Vincent Van Gogh’s Houses at Auvers (1853–1890) and Alfred Sisley’s La Croix Blanche at Saint-Mammès (1884). The category “From the Land” includes 17 paintings of landscapes and still lifes such as Caillebotte’s Fruit Displayed on a Stand (about 1881-82), Paul Cézanne’s Fruit and a Jug on a Table (about 1890-4) and Camille Pissarro’s Pontoise, the Road to Gisors in Winter (1873). “Of the People” will include 16 portraits and figure paintings, such as Woman with a Parasol (about 1874-76) by Renoir, Racehorses at Longchamp (1871) by Degas and In the Loge (1878) by American Mary Cassatt. The Top 10 vote getters from across the three categories will then be served up for a final round—and ranked from 1–10—during the final three days of voting. The Top Three most popular works will earn a place of honor at the entrance of the exhibition.

Through the lens of voters’ choices, the exhibition will also tell a larger story: that of Boston’s long-standing love for Impressionism, which began in the 1870s and 1880s and continues to the present day. The show will explore contributions made by the visionary collectors whose individual tastes and personalities have helped shape the MFA’s collection over the past century and a half. At the conclusion of the exhibition, curators will install a small selection of Impressionist works from private collectors.

“This project presents a unique opportunity both to engage the public in a new way and to share the extraordinary story of the Museum’s Impressionist collection,” said Emily Beeny, the MFA’s Assistant Curator, Paintings, Art of Europe. “Chosen once by the collectors, dealers, curators and directors who brought them to Boston, and now chosen again by online voters, the works included in this show promise to provide a glimpse into the history of the city and a snapshot of its taste today.”

The MFA’s History with Impressionism
Bostonians were among the world’s first collectors of Impressionism, a style commonly derided as “depraved” by Parisian critics of their day. By 1892, when Boston’s St. Botolph Club hosted the first non-commercial show of Monet’s work held anywhere in the world, local collectors owned so many Monets that at least 20 had to be excluded from the exhibition due to lack of space. The Museum of Fine Arts soon reaped the benefits of Boston’s enthusiasm. The MFA received its first three Monets as a gift in 1906 and today holds the largest collection of this artist’s paintings outside Paris.

Boston’s love of Impressionism was not limited to Monet. Countless gifts and judicious purchases—from Degas’ Racehorses at Longchamp (1869), the first work by this artist purchased by any American museum, in 1903, to Caillebotte’s Man at His Bath (1884), the MFA’s most recent Impressionist addition, bought in 2011—have made the MFA’s Impressionist collection one of the finest in the world. With Boston Loves Impressionism, the public will be able to enjoy the city’s good fortune of having been home to many savvy collectors over the decades.

Boston Loves Impressionism will be on view from February 14–May 26, 2014 in the Museum’s Torf Gallery while the Sidney and Esther Rabb Gallery—the MFA’s European Impressionism gallery—undergoes extensive renovations. The gallery will reopen on June 4, 2014. Filled with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings and sculpture, the gallery will provide an in-depth look at avant-garde artists working in France between 1870 and 1900. The renovation of this gallery was made possible with support from the Vance Wall Foundation.

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