The museum’s director, Matthew Titelbaum, announced the reopening with a piece about Karsh and Glen Gould.
Having grown up in Toronto, as I did, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould was a hero to me. A reclusive (often difficult) artist in our midst, few knew him or saw him, yet his dedication to his work was legendary and far-reaching. (When the great German photographer Thomas Struth came to Toronto for the first time, he wanted to drive by the apartment where Gould lived, and artist Gerhard Richter often had one of Gould’s famed recordings of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” playing in his studio.) Karsh’s portrait of the young Gould captures the moment of music making and the intensity of deep concentration. Gould’s hands, pictured in midst of movement, are the center of the photograph, a moment when sublime creativity comes into the world.
Great portraits inevitably take us beyond the world of seeing to a world of feeling and thinking: they take us on a journey. Yousuf Karsh took the great portrait traditions of artists before him—Holbein, Degas, and Sargent—and made them his own. He gave honor to his subjects while revealing personality and character.
When I look at Gould I think of the connections between art worlds: the great musician, the great photographer—sound and sight—and the great museum. I think, too, of my colleagues in Boston who work in parallel with us, the leaders and musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Lyric Opera, the Handel and Haydn Society, and more, and send hope that their music will begin, and be shared again, soon. And I think of newer artists and performers trying to thrive without access to a live audience, and am proud the MFA has supported livestreaming concerts and weekly studio visits/takeovers on social media to give them a venue to share their art with you. We welcome you back today, to a better, stronger MFA, with the powerful work of local artists on our Huntington Avenue facade, acknowledging the voices of the creators and performers around us, pushing us to open our eyes and ears to their messages.
Remember to wear a mask, wash your hands, and play safely as you return to your favorite institutions.