Published June 15, 2011
Last night a group of nearly two dozen Boston artists mounted an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. Not in a gallery, though. Instead they snuck work into a pair of bathrooms for a “renegade” exhibition.
Yes, this means they installed art in a major institution without obtaining permission. But, no, they did not break in. And yes, they got caught — but not immediately.
The MFA stays open late on Wednesday nights, and last night was particularly crowded because admission was free. This allowed the art bandits to slip in casually with the other visitors.
At about 6:45 p.m. they entered the men’s and women’s rooms adjacent to a stairway between the below-ground Chihuly exhibition and the MFA’s new atrium courtyard.
They quickly pulled out a trove of original drawings, prints, photos — even sculptures. The works were smuggled into the MFA inside backpacks, shoulder bags, folders and notebooks.
It took just 15 minutes to install the unsanctioned exhibition, titled “Best of Boston.” The “opening” took place as scheduled, at 7 p.m. Security started removing the artworks about 20 minutes later.
As it turns out a nearly identical scene played out at the MFA exactly 40 years ago to the day.
In fact last night’s stunt was a reenactment marking the June 15, 1971, “joke show” known as “Flush with the Walls.” It was organized by seven Boston artists: Todd McKie, Martin Mull, Fred Brink, David Raymond, Bob Guillemin, Jo Sandman and Kristin Johnson. They even printed rascally invitations on toilet paper that said, “When you gotta show you gotta show.”