The Making of a Masterpiece

Over the past decade, the Museum of Fine Arts has raised more than $500 million as part of an ambitious plan to reinvent itself. This month, the public finally gets to see what a half-billion dollars gets you these days.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Nearly every piece of real estate in the new wing — the galleries, the courtyard, even a stairway  — is named after someone (someone who ponied up at least $1 million for the privilege). Here, some of the people who will now and forever be associated with the MFA.

GEORGE PUTNAM 
Who he is: Former chairman of Putnam Investments; also a major benefactor of the Peabody Essex Museum. His father, George Putnam Sr., founded the eponymous company (and married Amelia Earhart). Find his name on: Ship Models and Maritime Arts gallery, lower ground level.

PENNY AND JEFFREY VINIK
Who they are: After taking over Fidelity’s Magellan Fund from Peter Lynch in the early ’90s, Jeffrey Vinik founded the hedge fund Vinik Asset Management. His own portfolio now includes the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Find their names on: The Salon: Americans Abroad in the 19th Century, level two.

SAUNDRA B. AND WILLIAM H. LANE
Who they are: William, a Leominster-based plastics manufacturer, and his wife began collecting art in 1951, eventually amassing works by such masters as Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, and Ansel Adams. By the time of William’s death in 1995, the Lanes held one of the world’s most important collections of modern American art. Saundra is still a collector and heavily involved with the MFA. Find their names on: Three galleries — American Modernism: the Lane Collection; Abstraction: 1940–1970; and 20th-Century Art: People, all on level three.

BARBARA AND THEODORE ALFOND
Who they are: Theodore’s father founded Dexter Shoes, which the family owned until they sold it in 1993 for $400 million. Thanks to their generosity, the Alfond name is ubiquitous in their home state of Maine, while Barbara and Ted, who live in Weston, are considered among the world’s top art collectors. Find their names on: The new wing’s auditorium; Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins gallery, level two.

RUTH AND CARL J. SHAPIRO
Who they are: The Shapiros made their fortune with the Kay Windsor women’s clothing empire — and made their names by giving it away. Though their legacy has been damaged by their association with Bernie Madoff, they remain one of the Hub’s most philanthropic couples. Find their names on: The vast courtyard now at the center of the museum; John Singer Sargent gallery, level two.

JOYCE AND EDWARD LINDE
Who they are: Edward, who died last January, was the cofounder and CEO of real estate behemoth Boston Properties. When the MFA’s West Wing reopens next year as a contemporary art center, it will be named after the family. Find their names on: Life in 19th-Century America: Folk Art gallery, level two.

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  • Jeannie

    Dear Mr. Baker,
    Great article on the “new” MFA! However, it should be noted that the George Putnam who founded Putnam Investments was not married to Amelia Earhart. Earhart’s widower was George Palmer Putnam of Rye, NY, publisher of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, NYC.