8 Museum Exhibits in Boston to Check Out Before They Disappear

Portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, a look at motherhood throughout history, and other must-sees.

Boston is home to some of the most famous museums in the country—from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. While the establishments themselves draw crowds and plenty of attention, it’s the world-renowned works that bring about enthusiasts.

With the new season comes a bevy of fun things to do around the city, so make sure to pencil in spending an afternoon checking out one of Boston's many world-class museums. Curators across art, science, and other disciplines have crafted some truly exceptional exhibits across the city, so plan a date night or round up some friends and head to the coolest museum exhibits in Boston right now—but hurry before it’s too late.

Belfast-born artist Oliver Jeffers, best known for his picture books for young children, currently has an oversized 36-foot by 16-foot piece on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that can be viewed both from the outside (along Evans Way) and inside of the museum. The image captures a woman in her own world engrossed in, you guessed it, a storybook, featuring a vast blue sky lit with stars, planets, and comets that will send you to a pleasantly nostalgic place.
Dates: Now through October 4
How to visit: Museum is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 am to 5 pm; Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm; and Thursday from 11 am to 9 pm

Lighthouse ArtSpace Boston
Immersive Vatican | Lighthouse ArtSpace Boston

In collaboration with the Vatican itself, Lighthouse ArtSpace at the Castle will kick off its Immersive Vatican experience beginning October 7. Expect to be surrounded by the famous Renaissance frescoes, ultimately transporting visitors to the sites of the historical masterpieces some have only encountered in textbooks.
Dates: October 7 through mid-November
How to visit: Reserve timed tickets via website

As part of her Valkyries series, which pays homage to inspiring women in history, Portuguese visual artist Joana Vasconcelos is bringing her large-scale installation, Valkyrie Mumbet, to life at the MassArt Art Museum. The piece, in honor of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, an enslaved woman who was one of the first slaves in Massachusettes to sue for and win back her freedom, takes over nearly the entire gallery space, with draping ornaments, textiles, and fabrics to establish a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Dates: Now through the end of the year
How to visit: Admission to the museum is free; open Wednesday from noon to 6 pm; Thursday from noon to 8 pm; and Friday through Sunday from noon to 6 pm

MassArt Art Museum
Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Birth | MassArt Art Museum

Organized by the Designing Motherhood curatorial team in collaboration with the MassArt Art Museum, this exhibition captures the evolution of rights pertaining to contraception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences over the last 150 years. The exhibit is made up of a collection of prints, portraits, menstrual products, nursery items, and more provided by a group of contemporary artists and designers.
Dates: Now through December 18
How to visit: Admission to the museum is free; open Wednesday from noon to 6 pm, Thursday from noon to 8 pm, and Friday through Sunday from noon to 6 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Obama Portraits Tour | Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As the seventh and final stop of its national tour, The Obama Portraits have made their way to the MFA. Created by Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, the first black artists to be commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to develop portraits of the US President and First Lady, the renowned works are now on display until October 30. Accompanying this exhibit is also the Portraits of Leadership: Responses to the Obama Portraits, which had been organized by the MFA, putting out a call for individuals to submit drawings of leaders in their own lives.
Dates: Now through October 30
How to visit: Free admission to the museum and The Obama Portraits Tour on September 19, October 10 (Indigienous Peoples’ Day), and Sunday October 30 or reserve timed tickets via website

Featuring a collection of more than 180 items, including vintage photographs, assignment outlines, and more, this exhibit takes you through the powerful photography and historical moments highlighted in Life magazine during its weekly run from 1936 to 1972.
Dates: October 9 through January 16, 2023
How to visit: Free admission to the museum on September 19, October 10 (Indigienous Peoples’ Day), and Sunday October 30 or reserve timed tickets via website

Celebrating the legacy of Black fashion designer Patrick Kelly, this exhibit incorporates 75 of Kelly’s fully-accessorized runway ensembles from 1984 to 1989. His looks, which came to popularity in the ‘80s, are inspired by his Black heritage and Southern roots, knowledge of fashion and art, and Paris and New York’s gay club and nightlife scenes.
Dates: Now through November 6
How to visit: General admission tickets available via website

Presented as part of PEM’s Climate + Environment Initiative, social and environmental artist Konstantin Dimopoulos brings his work to Greater Boston for the first time with The Blue Trees installation. Decorated in a harmless blue colorant, a selection of PEM’s trees will help convey Dimopoulos’s focus on creating larger conversation on deforestation and other growing threats to trees.
Dates: Now through January 1, 2023
How to visit: General admission tickets available via website

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Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. You can follow her on Instagram.