When Bad is Good

Contributing Reporters on this Newscast:

When Bad is Good by Shuqing Zhao

Somerville, MA, July 15, 2014 – What is bad art? Or is there bad art at all? As the only museum in the world – or at least in New England – that collects, exhibits and celebrates art that would never make it to traditional galleries, the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) has its own definitions of good and bad.

“Like pornography, we say we know it when we see it,” explained Michael Frank, the Curator-in-Chief. For MOBA, “bad art” should be the art that’s too bad to be ignored.

Its curators note that most of the museum’s criteria are exactly the same as a fine art museum. Kitsch art, paintings on velvet and anything that’s boring won’t be accepted. What MOBA looks for is pieces with something that went wrong.

“Poor technique can be interesting if the poor technique results in a compelling image,” Frank said.

MOBA – located in the basement of the Somerville Theater, with additional galleries in Brookline and Dedham – has about 500 pieces in its collection. It was founded in 1994.

“It started with a friend finding a piece of art in the trash. He was going to throw out the art and sell the frame,” Executive Director Louise Sacco explained. “Another friend said, ‘You can’t throw that out. That’s so bad, it’s good, and I want to hang it in my house.’”

Even though the museum’s name has the word “bad” in it, artists love the idea.

“An artist wants to communicate something, and wants an audience for their work, and we are providing that audience for them,” Sacco said.

At the start, the art was mostly from yard sales and thrift stores in the Boston Area.

Today, artists send pieces from all over the world. MOBA receives about 70 pieces each year, and only about 20 are good enough – or rather, bad enough – to make it into the collection.