The Museum of Bad Art

The artists of MOBA suffered for their art. Now it's your turn.

The Museum of Bad Art

Mana Lisa, Andrea Schmidt, oil on canvas, donated by the artist.

“This is so bad, it’s good,” remarked Jerry Reilly when friend Scott Wilson presented him with Lucy in the Field with Flowers, the oil painting that inspired the creation of the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA). Wilson, an art & antiques dealer, had rescued Lucy from a pile of trash on the street, hoping to salvage and sell its frame before re-depositing the canvas in the garbage. But Reilly insisted on keeping the painting, and the duo soon found themselves collecting and soliciting donations of “bad art,” which they installed in Reilly’s basement along with the requisite track lighting. His subsequent house warming party-cum-art show was a huge hit, attracting more than 200 guests, “and the next morning we decided to start a museum of bad art,” recalls his sister, Louise Reilly Sacco, a recently-retired marketing consultant who now serves as MOBA’s “Permanent Interim Acting Executive Director.”

While MOBA has long since outgrown Reilly’s basement and now occupies a pair of galleries, both within 1920s-era movie theaters (one in Dedham, Massachusetts, the other in nearby Somerville), it has stayed true to its mission of “celebrating artistic effort, however misguided.” Under the direction of current curator-in-chief and Boston resident Michael Frank, its collection now numbers more than six hundred pieces (approximately a hundred of which are displayed at any one time), almost all contributed by donors relieved to find someone—anyone—willing to take the works off their hands.

Yet, like any fine art museum, MOBA (established in 1993) is very particular about what it will appropriate for its permanent collection, accepting little more than ten percent of what is offered. Factory art, tourist art, works painted on velvet, paint-by-numbers, any of the well known kitschy motifs (dogs playing cards, for example), anything by a child, and anything remotely close to being pornographic are rejected out-of-hand.

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