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.
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Best art museums in Boston
Since its founding in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts has dominated Boston’s cultural landscape, continually growing in size and scope.
There’s no doubting the ICA building is a work of art in itself.
Boston’s most charming museum continues to impress.
There are three buildings that form the Harvard Art Museums, each housing a different collection.
Head west to Lincoln and this former estate of Massachusetts merchant Julian de Cordova, which is now totally given over to displaying modern art.
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.
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.
Until the Seaport District was created this century, artists (rather than corporations and their workers) populated Fort Point.
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.
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.
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.