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Where to see art in Boston

Check out our Boston art museum guide for the best installations and exhibitions, plus top galleries and more

By Linda Laban and Time Out Boston Staff |
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Institute of Contemporary Art, Museums and galleries, Things to Do, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Institute of Contemporary Art Institute of Contemporary Art

Boston wasn’t nicknamed The Hub of the Universe without good reason. The city has been a cultural seat since the 1700s and remains a significant place to learn about and enjoy the visual arts. Most of the major art galleries and museums are located in Back Bay and South End, but further-flung neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain are drawing local talent with low rents and large spaces. Follow our Boston art museum guide for the best of the best. Make a night of it by following up your artsy activities with a meal at one of the most romantic restaurants in Boston, or, if you’re watching your wallet, check our guide to the best free things to do in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Boston

Best art museums in Boston

1
Museum of Fine Arts
Photograph: Roger Metcalf
Museums, Art and design

Museum of Fine Arts

icon-location-pin Fenway/Kenmore

Since its founding in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts has dominated Boston’s cultural landscape, continually growing in size and scope. 

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4
Harvard Art Museums
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Bill Comstock
Museums, Art and design

Harvard Art Museums

icon-location-pin Harvard Sq

There are three buildings that form the Harvard Art Museums, each housing a different collection.

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5
deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Museums and galleries, Things to Do, Boston
Photograph: Elan Fleisher
Museums, Art and design

DeCordova Museum & Sculpture Park

Head west to Lincoln and this former estate of Massachusetts merchant Julian de Cordova, which is now totally given over to displaying modern art. 

6
SoWa Artists Guild, Museums and galleries, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy SoWa Artists Guild
Art, Galleries

SoWa Artists Guild

icon-location-pin South End

This is an important spot for relishing artists and their art in one place, and is a remnant of Boston’s once fertile artistic community, who inhabited nearby onetime cheap-rent lofts.

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7
Peabody Museum, Things to Do, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum
Museums, Art and design

Peabody Essex Museum

This museum has one of the largest art collections in New England (around 1.8 million works in total) and specializes in maritime art, much of which dates to the original East India Marine Society’s collection, begun in the late 1800s by local sea captains. 

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9
Aviary Gallery, Museums and galleries, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Aviary Gallery
Art, Galleries

Aviary Gallery

icon-location-pin Jamaica Plain

This community art space is tucked into a tiny storefront on South Street, but the gallery is packed with powerful imagery and artworks from local artists who might not normally be exhibited in larger, downtown spaces. 

10
Freepoint Hotel
Photograph: Courtesy Freepoint Hotel
Hotels

Freepoint Hotel

icon-location-pin Fresh Pond

This Fresh Pond hotel has skillfully turned its gorgeously-designed lobby into a working gallery space. There is permanent art on display, commissioned with the help of the Cambridge Arts Council, and also regularly changing exhibits, which run the gamut from fine art to photography. 

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11
Guild of Boston Artists
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Guild of Boston Artists

Guild of Boston Artists

A non-profit arts organization representing New England artists, the Guild of Boston Artists (162 Newbury St; Tue-Sat 10:30am-5:30pm) was founded in 1914 by some prominent painters of the day, including Edmund Tarbell, William Paxton and Frank Benson. The guild is still artist owned and operated, and presents and promotes traditional artworks from living artists. 

See the best art museums in America

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