Unique U.S. Museums: The Museum of Bad Art

LUCY IN THE FIELD WITH FLOWERS-Lucy in the Field with Flowers is among the paintings which are part of the Museum of Bad Art’s collection.

                                                                                 Image reprinted with the permission of the Museum Of Bad Art

By Carla Charter

There are many museums across the world that house classic pieces of artwork. Then there is the Museum Of Bad Art, which according to Louise Reilly Sacco Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director collects, exhibit and celebrates art in which something has gone wrong.  “We are the only museum in the world who does what we do,” she said.

The majority of the art in the museum’s 800-piece collection is two dimensional, although there are a few sculptures as well. “Our standards for bad art are strict,” Sacco said.  The work has to be interesting and has to be art.  It has to be sincere, original and the artist cannot have set out to make bad art.

As for her favorite piece of art, Sacco said, “My favorite piece in the collection is Sunday on the Pot with George. It is done in pointillism an image done with dots of color although we call it in this case pointlessism. It is a painting of a man in his underwear with a towel around him.

The museum began when Scott Wilson, an arts and antique dealer would drive out on trash night picking up anything he thought might be resaleable.  On one particular night he picked up a painting, later dubbed, Lucy in a Field with Flowers. “His original intent was to get rid of the painting and reuse the frame. He showed the painting to his friend Jerry Reilly who said you can’t throw that out its so bad its good. Jerry took the painting and hung it over the fireplace in his house. Once this happened other people saved bad art for Jerry and Scott kept an eye out for more for him. Jerry ended up with a pretty good-sized collection of bad art,” Sacco said.

With the collection growing, Reilly decided to have a party and jokingly called it the opening of the Museum Of Bad Art. He invited 50 people but by midnight there were 200 people. “Friends were calling friends and saying you have got to come and see this,” said Sacco.

The next morning it was clear the museum needed to continue to exist. “Jerry was surprised and pleased at the interest in the art. We set up the museum in Jerry’s basement and ran it there for at least a year.  When a busload of seniors from Rhode Island parked on our suburban street to see the museum we knew we needed more space,” Sacco said.   The Dedham Community Theatre invited the museum to use their theatre basement. The museum was housed at the Dedham theatre for 10 years and then the Somerville Theatre for 12 years. The Boston Globe and other local papers wrote articles about the museum.

In the late 1990’s a CD Rom with a virtual museum was created and the museum held a launch party to celebrate. “At the time the Wall Street Journal had a new reporter in their Boston bureau and we decided to invite him. The next day we were on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. This put us on the world stage. Soon we had journalists calling and there were articles in the Rolling Stone, Wired, London Times, as well as papers in South Africa, Indonesia and all over the world.”

Since that time the Museum of Bad Art has continued to grow and has also held exhibitions worldwide including in Tokyo and Taiwan as well as in various places in the United States.  The museum is expecting to hold a show in Los Angeles in the fall.

Currently the Museum’s artwork is in storage, as they search for a new home.  “Any new location will have to have access to the MBTA (public transit) and be open nights and weekends,” Sacco said. Until the museum finds a new location, their art can be viewed on The Museum Of Bad Art Facebook page or at www.museumofbadart.org.


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