Nothing to See Here

Enough already with Boston’s boring, old, and stodgy public art.

By Max Grinnell | Boston Magazine |
boston's public art

Illustration by C.J. Burton

At the beginning of August, the Institute of Contemporary Art unveiled an enormous mural on the side of a building in Dewey Square, the one-time home of Occupy Boston. Painted by the Brazilian graffiti artists, and twin brothers, known as Os Gêmeos, it’s a bright and colorful 70-foot depiction of a young boy with his head covered by a shirt. All you can see are his eyes. The piece echoes similar work the brothers have done around the world depicting yellow, Simpsons-like characters. Os Gêmeos titled this one The Giant of Boston.

The mural has been remarkably well received. WGBH visual-art contributor Mary Tinti commented that the piece “brings a sense of culture and vibrancy to this area of downtown Boston whose architecture can seem so corporate, so dark, so cold.” Globe art critic Sebastian Smee noted that “it stirs the heart and—in its play with color and scale—it’s wonderfully witty.” And while a handful of modern-day philosophers took the opportunity to lob ethnic slurs about the kid looking like a “terrorist” on Fox Boston’s Facebook page, ICA director Jill Medvedow was unfazed. She released a straightforward statement: “Good art gets people talking.”

The kind reception has been a coup for the ICA, which is also presenting an Os Gêmeos exhibition at the museum through November. (To go along with the show, the artists have painted two other murals in Boston, one each at the Revere Hotel and Mama Gina’s restaurant in Somerville.) The success is proof that Boston is desperate for more and better public art—something we’ve been sorely lacking.

  • Robert Fleming

    Max: There have been a series of art installations in Boston’s neighborhoods over the last 20 years Including the art fountains in Mission Hill, the “Judge’ in Dudley Square, the “Sleeping Moon” in Peabody Square, the Gateway art pieces in Mattapan Square and those in Harriet Tubman Square in the South End to name a few that have very little in common with those older works you mentioned. You should check them out when you get the chance.

  • suzyframe

    Thanks for sharing this great information! I have been looking into boston arts and entertainment and where I can go to find that great information! Can you tell me where I can find more information like this? Thanks again for sharing!