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Cutting-Edge Contemporary and Old-Fashioned Fun at the MFA

On any given Wednesday night–when the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, offers free admission–the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art is bustling with activity. You might find visitors sketching a live model in the galleries, couples sharing a bottle of wine or a crowd filing out of a screening of the latest buzz-worthy foreign film. Aside from housing an array of works by Andy Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly from Kara Walker and El Anatsui, the I.M. Pei-designed space was recently refreshed with cutting-edge exhibitions and installations. The large neon sign, PLEASE…,  offers sage advice to visitors trying to take it all in: enjoy, relax, dance, touch, flirt, talk and wonder.

As you enter the Linde Family Wing, the sounds of Jeremy Deller’s off-the-wall video portrait of British culture, English Magic, fill the space. Part of the new exhibition, National Pride (and Prejudice),  the work provides the soundtrack for visitors contemplating Dave Cole’s flag made of bullets or Lyle Ashton Harris’ Miss America portrait.

Around the corner, Taste Café  offers the perfect vantage point for people-watching. Old friends sip cappuccinos, kids nosh on whoopie pies, and book lovers pour over their recent finds from the MFA Shop. Passersby try to figure out whose shadows are being cast on the wall opposite the cafe. The truth? The shadows were painted by Argentinean artist Liliana Porter, and are a work of art in their own right.

Those who venture to the second floor of the Linde Family Wing will find more cutting-edge art to contemplate. The Conversation Piece exhibition looks at how we communicate with one another in the modern world. Download Miranda July’s Somebody app for a chance to encounter with a total stranger.

Artist Jason Middlebrook’s 24-by-80-foot mural of colorful lines  painted to mimic the swirling lines of wood grain is the perfect stop for a carefully curated Museum selfie. Visitors missing the green of summer can get lost in David Hockney’s Garrowby Hill. Relax in a grass-like beanbag Topia Chair by Barbara Gallucci. Is it art or is it a chair?

A single evening hardly seems like enough time to experience the Contemporary Wing. Slow down as you take in the fiber art hanging in the gallery of contemporary craft, or be mesmerized by the mirrored optical illusion of Josiah McElheny’s Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism . It’s the perfect place to spend a night with friends, or impress a date with your avant-garde style. No matter how you choose to explore the Linde Family Wing, the energy that surrounds you will leave you invigorated with new creativity–and ready to plan your next visit.