Dedham site dedicated to displaying "bad art"

Trash to Treasure

"Blue-Eyed Sistah" By: Anonymous

Check out these slideshows: one is on Symbolic paintings and the other is about "Blue People" paintings.

“It’s the most horrible place that you could house a museum, and it’s the perfect place for this museum,” said Jeff Boedeker, a 25-year-old film student at Boston University.

This is the Museum of Bad Art. Housed in the basement of the Dedham Community Theatre, MOBA’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s only museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting and celebrating bad art. This one-room museum is not cosmetically  pleasing.  The floor is covered by carpet that looks like it came out of a frat house, fluorescent lights line the ceilings, and an occasional toilet flush can be heard from the men’s bathroom that is only separated from the museum by a partition.  But the dark, gaudy picture frames that line the walls contain paintings that have been turned from trash to treasure.   

 The museum has been operating since 1994 and has over 400 pieces of “bad” art in its collection. At any given time, it displays 20 or 30 paintings.  “My favorite piece is called, ‘Sunday on the Pot with George,’ said Executive Director of the MOBA, Louise Sacco. “ It’s a masterpiece of pointillism.  Why would someone with skill like that paint a picture of a guy in his tighty whites, on a toilet?” Other paintings feature aliens dancing around with apples, people with disproportionate body features and paintings of blue people.

But what makes something “bad” enough to make it into the collection?  Well, that job is left up to, MOBA Curator Mike Frank.  “Poor technique alone doesn’t make something worthy of the collection, unless the poor technique results in an image that’s interesting enough to keep looking at it,” said Frank.  Boston University's Professor of American Art Patricia Hills seem to agree with Frank’s interpretation of bad art.  “Bad art would be something totally boring, with no ideas," she said. "I think if this is a museum of bad art, the bad art is probably the stuff they rejected not the stuff they decided to put into their museum.”

Each month, MOBA  receives about 15 or 20 paintings from all over the world but Frank usually accepts only one or two of those for the collection.   Some people donate there own work, other people just want to give the paintings away and some pieces are actually found in the trash.  Occasionally, Frank, who can never pass a yard sale or a flea market without checking it out, will purchase a painting he deems worthy of the collection. 

But just because a painting is deemed worthy by Frank doesn't mean that the artist wants it gracing MOBA's walls. One woman was horrified after discovering, through her ex-boyfriend, that her work was being displayed at the museum.  She told Sacco to remove the piece immediately.  The painting was never seen again.   

 The museum never pays more than $8 for a piece.  The paintings that get rejected are put into a rejection collection.  Every year, the MOBA has a fund-raising auction to sell the rejected paintings.  They have received up to $80  for some of the auctioned paintings.  A large portion of the proceeds from the auction go to organizations such as the Salvation Army.  This year, the proceeds went to the retired sanitation workers in Cambridge.  The MOBA felt that donating to the sanitation workers was fitting because they receive a lot of their best paintings from them. 

 Boedeker said, “If a garbage collector can be a curator, I think that’s a beautiful thing."   Whether serious or silly, the MOBA is proving that one person's trash can really be another's treasure. 




Name of Place:
Museum of Bad Art

Site founded:

Basement of Dedham Community Theatre 580 High St. Dedham, MA 02026 (click for directions)

Sunday-Thursday (usually) 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Holidays 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. MOBA is open when there is a film running.  Check the Dedham Community Theatre for film schedule.


City Founded:

City Population:

Commuter Rail Stop:
Dedham Corp. Center/Franklin Line

Departs from:
South Station




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