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Sourcing the crowd: a new exhibit at the museum of fine arts Boston puts curating in the public's hands.

"Crowdsourced" exhibits--museum shows that are partially or completely juried by the public--have jumped in popularity throughout the past several years. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston recently followed the trend with its latest exhibit, "Boston Loves Impressionism." Casting more than 40,000 votes via smart phone and Facebook, the public selected their 30 favorite art pieces out of 50 impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the MFA's collection.

Malcolm Rogers, the MFA's Ann and Graham Gund Director, launched the project to find a temporary home for the museum's impressionist collection during gallery renovation.

"We are thrilled with the overwhelming response of voters," Rogers says. "We're always looking for innovative ways of reaching new audiences and presenting the collection. An important part of our mission is to make art accessible to all. Crowdsourcing and other online initiatives help to break down barriers between the public and the world of fine art, so that everyone feels welcome and can experience our treasures in a variety of ways."

Brooklyn Museum helped spearhead the crowdsourcing movement in 2008 with "Click!" an amateur photography exhibit juried I by online voters. Other museums have followed a similar hands-off approach, like the 2012 "Public Property" exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which allowed the public to vote on the exhibit's title, theme and artwork.

Community-curated exhibits have been met with mixed reactions from critics. Brooklyn Museum's "Click!" and "GO," a 2012 community-curated open studio project, both received lackluster reviews from The New York Times. While "GO" successfully showcased local artists' work, the judging demographic was largely limited to tech-sawy individuals who may have been influenced by the artists' self-promotions. Critics also note that the general public is drawn to more familiar and conventional art, a preference that can limit the scope of a crowdsourced exhibit.

In a move that satisfies both the public and critics, venues like the Museum of Fine Arts Boston have encouraged viewer participation within a curator's parameters. Last year Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C. hosted the "People's Choice" exhibition, which allowed the public to vote for their favorite art pieces from a selection of 140 objects in the permanent collection. Curators maintain some control, unlike the true democracies of other community-curated exhibits.

After votes were tallied for "Boston Loves Impressionism," Vincent van Gogh's "Houses at Auvers" earned the most love with 4,464 votes, followed by Claude Monet's "Water Lilies" and Edgar Degas' "The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer," the only sculpture in the contest. Monet was particularly popular among the public, securing 13 paintings in the exhibit.

Regardless of format, crowd-sourced exhibits increase community engagement, encourage art participation and often boost admission sales. For better or worse, the general audience remains a driving force in the art world. "Boston Loves Impressionism" is on view through May 26. ABN

* For more, visit mfa.org.

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Title Annotation:INSIDE THE FRAME
Comment:Sourcing the crowd: a new exhibit at the museum of fine arts Boston puts curating in the public's hands.(INSIDE THE FRAME)
Publication:Art Business News
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Mar 22, 2014
Words:473
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