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While New York City has the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paris has the Louvre and London has the Tate, Boston has its own, lesser-known stake in the art world.

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) is the only museum in the world to solely showcase works of art gone wrong.

With the tagline “art too bad to be ignored”, MOBA began in 1994 when antique dealer Scott Wilson acquired Lucy in the Field with Flowers from a curbside trash pile, hoping to salvage just the frame. Fascinated by the old woman awkwardly posing in a meadow, Wilson’s friend Jerry Reilly saved the painting and piece by piece the collection grew until the men began having exhibitions in Reilly’s basement. Eventually, the popularity of the events forced the collection to move into the larger basement of the Dedham Community Theatre, where bad art still hangs today. The museum has since expanded to two other locations in the Boston area, with 20 to 40 pieces on display at any given time. 

The 600-piece collection showcases all of the categories any major art museum might, like landscapes, still lifes or nudes, but also contains more peculiar categories like “blue people” and “poor traits”. Each painting comes labelled with a short interpretation, though the museum often has contests allowing the “opinionated, overeducated, and verbose” to be guest interpreters for new works.

Admission is always free for the Brookline Gallery and the original gallery in the Dedham Community Theatre (the Somerville Theatre gallery requires admission to the theatre), although donations of cash and “really, really bad art” are always appreciated. Curators only accept about 10% to 20% of donations into the permanent collection, mostly because the art just isn’t bad enough. Each piece must have been created by someone trying to make an artistic statement that has gone horribly wrong – so works by kids, paint-by-numbers and works painted on velvet are never accepted. Rejected art still finds a good home through the museum’s bad art charity auctions held throughout the year.

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