It’s all about the art. It’s not about the architecture. End of review—except for some persistent questions about museum design. Already judged a smashing success since its opening in late November, the $504 million, 121,307-square-foot Art of the Americas Wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, designed by the London firm of Foster + Partners, does exactly what it was meant to do: This discreet addition at the east end of Guy Lowell’s original 1909 Beaux Arts building houses a radical reorganization of the museum’s American holdings, defined in the broadest possible terms.

Fifty three new galleries bring together the arts of North, Central and South America, spanning centuries and cultures. This vast expansion of the conventional definition of American art includes pre-Columbian artifacts, the museum’s unparalleled American collection from the prerevolutionary period and the years of the Early Republic, examples of Latin American art and Native North American work from ancient to modern times, and contemporary American art through the mid-1970s. Embedded in these exhibition areas are newly refurbished period rooms. And while it is a questionable stretch to enforce a geographic and aesthetic logic on arts with totally different cultural roots and influences, the case has been well made in a handsome accompanying book, “A New World Imagined: Art of the Americas.” Weaknesses revealed by the reorganization are acknowledged up front, with the promise of future acquisitions.

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Ada Louise Huxtable
Wall Street Journal

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