One generally assumes that museums house collections of art, artifacts, or other objects that have some value, be it intellectual, aesthetic, or perhaps even controversial. The Museum of Bad Art, however, meets none of these standards. In spite of – or more likely because of – this, MOBA is a must-see attraction in Somerville, Dedham, or Brookline (or all three if you have high stamina for bad taste). Exactly as the name suggests, it features art – fantastically horrendous, unabashedly tacky, gloriously ugly art.
First, some things that do not count as bad art: young children’s creations, paintings on black velvet (in particular, velvet Elvises), paint-by-numbers, and latch-hook kits. No, insists MOBA: these are actually “probably better suited for the Museum of Questionable Taste, The International Schlock Collection, or the National Treasury of Dubious Home Decoration.”
While the aforementioned genres are not included under the bad art umbrella, a very wide range of “art” is included. Some pieces will make you smile, such as All Things Must Pass and Woman Riding Crustacean (which, notes MOBA, “appears unfinished” and is “possibly inspired by Debra Winger riding a mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy (1980).”) Others will make you wonder whether you accidentally consumed hallucinogenic drugs before arriving at the museum, such as An I for an Eye, a tree made of a naked woman and covered with crying eyes. Others will bore into your psyche and haunt you for the rest of your life (you’ve been warned): In the Cat’s Mouth and, even moreso, Jerez the Clown (“a perfect depiction of pure evil in the guise of childhood’s friend. This blending of big top themes with a piercing study of the dark side of human nature, elevates the well worn clown genre to a new and exhilarating level.”)
Once you are sufficiently nauseated from viewing this spectacular collection of horrible art, turn your attention to the guestbook, which is often almost as amusing as the art itself. “I feel weird after seeing all this bad art,” writes Maya. “The one wif da baby move me,” comments an unnamed visitor. And, perhaps the summation of everything for which MOBA stands: “This ART may be BAD but it is PERFECTLY GOOD at it!!” exclaims Rhodzilla with two exclamation points worth of excitement.
The first two MOBA locations are housed in the Dedham Community Theatre and the Somerville Theatre, appropriately hidden in the dankest basement corners (and conveniently located near the restrooms, points out the MOBA website). Admission is free with purchase of a movie ticket. The newest location sits on the top floor of Brookline Access Television, where admission is also free. Would you pay to see terrible art?
If a visit to the museum triggers the uncanny sensation that you’ve seen bad art in your very own home, perhaps created by your weird uncle or mean grandmother or even yourself, fear not – you can dispose of it by a simple donation to the museum. The guidelines? “The pieces that we look for would never hang in a museum or commercial gallery, yet they have some quality that draws you to them — or perhaps grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.“
Dedham Community Theatre
580 High Street in Dedham Square
Dedham, Massachusetts 02026-1845
55 Davis Square
Somerville MA 02144
46 Tappan St., Top Floor
Brookline, MA 02445
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.