On behalf of the board of trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, we are responding to Sebastian Smee’s article “Masterpieces on loan leave MFA walls lacking” (Page A1, Nov. 25).
Smee takes issue with 26 paintings on loan. However, he fails to mention the 21,000 works on view at the MFA, which themselves represent only a small percentage of the museum’s global collections. Loans and touring exhibitions enable us to share our works with the world and rotate others in the MFA’s 130 galleries.
Charging fees for lending art has been in practice for decades by museums, including the MFA, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Louvre. As one of the largest privately funded museums, the MFA has to be resourceful in raising money, especially in today’s economy. Touring the collection has become an essential revenue stream, supporting everything from public programs to staff positions. Further, the MFA and its visitors have been the beneficiaries of loans of masterpieces from around the world due to the museum’s reputation as an international collaborator.
In 1994, Malcolm Rogers was appointed director of the MFA by a board seeking change. He revived the museum, opening its doors — literally and figuratively — while increasing educational programs and community days, expanding hours, eliminating admission fees for children, and building a wing for the Art of the Americas. Through his creativity and bold leadership, he has achieved the delicate balance of financial stability while transforming the MFA into a dynamic, internationally renowned destination. It is a vision that we support.