Architectural History

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is one of 13 buildings to receive a prestigious 2011 RIBA International Award for architectural excellence.

From the opening of its first location in Copley Square through today, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has undertaken a series of renovation and expansion projects.

July 4, 1876—Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, opens at Copley Square in Sturgis and Brigham-designed building.

May 1909—Copley Square building closes.

November 1909—MFA opens new Beaux Arts building on Huntington Avenue, designed by Boston architect Guy Lowell. Standing on the historic homelands of the Massachusett people, the site had long served as a place of meeting and exchange among different nations.

February 1915—Evans Wing for Paintings opens, completing the second section of Guy Lowell’s original 1907 master plan.

1921 and 1925—Renowned artist John Singer Sargent completes ambitious mural program, incorporating sculpture and architectural ornamentation, for the MFA’s Rotunda (1921) and Colonnade (1925), now known as the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Rotunda and Colonnade. These murals are restored and conserved in 1999.

September 1927—The School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University) opens its new building, designed by Guy Lowell, on the Fenway. The building is renovated and expanded in 1987 by Graham Gund Architects.

November 1928—The Decorative Arts Wing, designed by Guy Lowell, opens on the east side of the MFA to house the Museum’s extensive collection of European and American decorative arts.

June 1970—The George Robert White Wing, designed by Hugh Stubbins, opens on the west side of the MFA, providing new space for a conservation laboratory, library, restaurants, education facilities, and administrative offices.

July 1981—The West Wing, designed by I.M. Pei, opens, incorporating a large gallery space for special exhibitions, an auditorium, restaurants, and shops.

April 1995—MFA reopens Huntington Avenue Entrance, which had been closed since 1990.

May 1999—Architectural firm Foster + Partners (London) is commissioned to develop master site plan for MFA.

September 2001—Museum launches Building the New MFA campaign.

February 2002—Foster + Partners (London) unveils master site plan.

November 2005—Building Project breaks ground.

September 2006—Museum names Art of the Ancient World Wing in honor of George D. and Margo Behrakis.

September 2007—MFA acquires adjacent Forsyth Institute building.

June 2008—MFA opens the State Street Corporation Fenway Entrance, which had been closed since the early 1980s, as well as a new Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center.

June 2008—I.M. Pei-designed West Wing is renamed Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

September 2008—MFA concludes Building the New MFA campaign, raising $504 million, and "tops off" final steel beam.

April 2009—Museum completes renovation of Huntington Avenue Entrance on the Avenue of the Arts.

September 2010—MFA names its Huntington Avenue plaza the Bank of America Plaza on the Avenue of the Arts.

November 20, 2010—Wing for the Art of the Americas and Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard open to the public with free Community Day.

September 2011—The Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art opens. Designed by I.M. Pei in 1981 as the Museum’s West Wing, it features contemporary works, which are on view in seven newly created galleries as well as the existing Foster Gallery.

November 2021—Center for Netherlandish Art and 6 new galleries of Dutch and Netherlandish art open.

December 2021—Major renovation and reinstallation of Behrakis Wing opens with 5 new galleries for art of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire.

November 2022—Public opening of Conservation Center (completed late 2020), comprising 22,000 square feet of renovated space and six laboratories in the Linde Wing.

Early 2023—Buddhist Temple Room and Asian art renovation complete.