the gardner grows

Gardner Museum artists get room with a view

New, modern apartments allow artists-in-residence to spend quality time at the museum.

essdras m suarez/globe staff

THE PRICE IS RIGHT. The view is stunning. And these two sparkling new apartments in the heart of the Fenway come with a perk sure to appeal to most culture vultures: after-hours access to one of the world’s most prized museums.

There is a catch. Not just anybody can stay at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. To score one of these spaces, you have to be an artist-in-residence.

On a recent afternoon one of those artists, Lee Mingwei, walked through the apartment spaces for the first time. An enthusiastic cook, he took special note of the flat Miele electric stovetop in the modern kitchen. He looked forward to spending time on the roof deck. And he remembered his previous Gardner stay in the now demolished Carriage House.


“It was physically and emotionally very cold,’’ he remembered. “This is fantastic. There’s a lot more light.’’

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

That’s an understatement. The entire front wall of the living space is glass, so the artists will themselves be on display.

“Whoever wants to use their binoculars to look in, that’s fine with me,’’ joked Lee.

The residences are on the second floor of a greenhouse building to the left of the Gardner’s new entrance on Evans Way. Contemporary art curator Pieranna Cavalchini explains that there are two kinds of shades that can be lowered on that glass wall: one to dim the light, the other to block it out. The bedrooms and bathrooms are in back, behind solid walls.

The residency program is important to the Gardner. Other local museums have occasionally had artists stay in town for projects, but they’re put up in hotels. The Gardner likes the idea of the artist inside the museum walls, whether for a few days or for several months. The idea is to create a closer bond with the museum.


“The apartment is important to help you feel at home and comfortable, to create a kind of atmosphere where you can create your own thinking space,’’ said Scottish painter Victoria Morton, a former artist-in-residence who is returning to mount an opening exhibition in the new wing and perform with her band.

British artist Dan Harvey, who stayed in the Carriage House with his wife, artist Heather Ackroyd, when they staged an exhibition in 2001, returned last month to re-create the show. Their work, which features images grown in grass, will be in “Points of View: 20 Years of Artists-in-Residence at the Gardner,’’ which opens Jan. 19.

Harvey is pleased that with two apartments, there’s the potential for mixing and mingling. Each space is private, but the artists share the main entrance and a stairway.

The couple recently shared an apartment in New Delhi with two other artists.

“It worked out really well,’’ he said. “As long as you’ve got a large enough space that is your own private space, it gives you a chance to talk about things and exchange ideas.’’


Lee is interested in sharing more than ideas. He’s already talked to Hao Sheng, a friend and curator of Chinese art at the Museum of Fine Arts, about having a dumpling party. If Morton’s staying across the hall, he plans to invite her, too.

“In Taiwan, what we usually do is invite someone over for tea and have some teacake and start from there,’’ he said.

Geoff Edgers can be reached at