The Museum Of Bad Art: A Monument To Artistic Failure
Out of all art museums in the world, only one is devoted to showcasing the worst works the world has to offer. It is called the Museum of Bad Art, or MOBA, and the Massachusetts-based museum lives up to its slogan of “art too bad to be ignored.”
The story of MOBA appropriately begins in a trash can. In 1993, museum founder Jerry Reilly saved a horrendous painting from the trash. The painting was of an old woman in a field, and they gave it the new name “Lucy in the Field with Flowers.” Reilly then began to collect other bad works of art, and in 1994, the Museum of Bad Art was born.
When MOBA found its first permanent home, it was, appropriately, in the basement of a community theater in Dedham, Massachusetts. The collection of art has piled up like a landfill, and they now possess about 600 pieces, of which 20 to 40 were displayed at a time. This gave bad art fans a reason to keep coming back.
In choosing to select a travesty of art for their collection, MOBA has one major rule: no intentionally bad art. Every piece in the collection has to display a genuine artistic effort, one that simply resulted in bad work. The result is to paint as The Room is to film. Each piece in the collection consists of earnest effort, baffling decisions, and an impressive lack of skill.
Take the OG piece in the collection, Lucy in the Field with Flowers, for example. This piece is to the Museum of Bad Art as the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre, just, y’know, a bad version. You could spend hours analyzing Lucy, and the painting gets worse each second you stare. She is sitting in a chair, but why does the chair not have legs? Why does her arm look like that? Why was this even made?
In this way, MOBA functions as a sort of museum for the rest of us, outsiders to the art world. If you’re not an art person, it can get annoying to hear people go on and on about how great a painting is when it honestly just looks bad. MOBA encourages viewers to mock each piece. It’s part of the point.
Unfortunately, things aren’t going smoothly for MOBA right now. Previously, they had to move from their Dedham location to another community theater basement in Somerville. Right now, though, MOBA is in bad art limbo. They don’t have a permanent location, and they don’t know when that will change.
Not having a gallery isn’t enough to keep bad art down, though! Their collections are viewable on the MOBA website and Facebook page. If you enjoy taking in bad media, there is a lot to see at MOBA, even if they don’t have a community theater basement to call their own right now.
Top Image: Ryan Fullenkamp/Museum of Bad Art