by Marissa Wu
Photography courtesy of The Museum Of Bad Art
You’ve probably heard of the Museum of Fine Art, and maybe the Museum of Modern Art. Now, discover the Museum Of Bad Art, the museum rounding out the world’s grand repertoire of artistic expression, by presenting, well, bad art. More importantly, MOBA has been paving an approachable route to a historically uppity culture.
Louise Reilly Sacco, one of the founders of MOBA, was adamant about the requirements for artwork accepted into the collection. First, all pieces must be interesting, thought-provoking, and above all, sincere, according to Sacco. And, it must be a genuine attempt that went awry. Purposefully “bad” art is not sincere, and therefore not MOBA material.
With a collection that numbers around 600 pieces, 50 to 70 are rotated at a time. At the moment, art appreciators can view pieces such as “Ferret in a Brothel,” as they enjoy the soft background noise of the automated hand dryers in the restroom. This is, after all, the Somerville Theater’s basement: a rogue gallery for rogue art.
MOBA and its galleries are not only an antithesis of the traditional art establishment in a physical sense, but also in ideology. MOBA is a true celebration of art as a process, with a rare understanding that art is not simply the final product.
“Our intent is to celebrate these works. We’re kind of celebrating the artists’ right to fail,” Sacco said. “And we also are saving art that would be destroyed that we think is never going to meet definitions of fine art, but is interesting, thought-provoking, sincere. It’s got some of the attributes of traditional art. And we want to share and celebrate it.”
John Gedraitis is one of the artists whose work found its way, haphazardly, to MOBA. This retired art teacher from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, is the master behind “Sunday on the Pot with George.” George, as the painting is now affectionately called, was a misadventure in pointillism for the then-20-year-old artist. After throwing it out, Gedraitis assumed George was trashed. But in 2008, he discovered MOBA—and that George had found a home.
“The way I look at it is there’s only one MOBA in the world that I know of,” said Gedraitis. “And the fact that I have a painting at this one and only MOBA, and then considering the fact that Louise often tells me that mine is her favorite painting, I feel so honored and almost justified in saying I’m the owner of the worst painting in the world. You can’t top that! It’s really fun; if you can’t be the best be the worst. I love the concept of the museum.”
Like Gedraitis, most artists are thrilled to learn that their mishaps have found a home, and more importantly, are being appreciated. According to Sacco, artists will often send in pieces that clearly went wrong. Sometimes it was an unsuccessful attempt at new techniques, or something just didn’t work. Other pieces are donated by neophytes who may not be artistically inclined, but whose works possess a sincerity MOBA can’t turn down.
The support of the artists for MOBA underlines the key role of the community in keeping the museum going. MOBA has no paid staff and is run solely on donations. But, the generosity of the community flows right back to it. Admission is free, and it’s going to stay that way.
“We are making art accessible for some people who would be intimidated by a gallery on Newbury Street or the MFA,” Sacco said. “They’ll come and see what we’re doing and they come talk about it and laugh about it and disagree with us and it just makes art more approachable.”
The Museum Of Bad Art is located in the Basement of the Somerville Theater in Davis Square. The price of admission is a movie ticket. Follow MOBA on Facebook or sign up for emails to keep abreast of all things bad art!