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The MFA’s awesome vision for Boston night life

MFA Director Matthew Teitelbaum with artists Frances Stark and Christian Marclay at the #mfaNOW overnight launch party.Museum of Fine Arts

When 7,000 people flock to a museum on a weekend night, there’s more to it than just the art.

From 6 p.m. Saturday until 9 the next morning, the Museum of Fine Arts hosted the first of four events dubbed #mfaNOW Overnights. For the institution, it was a clever way to reintroduce Bostonians to Christian Marclay’s “The Clock,” a celebrated piece that the MFA hasn’t displayed in five years, while also promoting a new exhibit featuring the Instagram-savvy contemporary artist Frances Stark.

Yet beyond that, the event also filled a yawning void in a city infamous for shutting down early.


Beyond the art exhibits, there were food trucks outside and, at least until 2 a.m., wine and cocktails inside. Graffiti artists created new paintings on the spot. There was a 10 p.m. group run around the museum, a 3:40 a.m. “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along, and yoga at 7 a.m.

At peak times — from about 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. — visitors waited for two hours to get in, according to MFA spokeswoman Karen Frascona, and the crowd didn’t wane until about 3 a.m.

Whenever anyone bemoans the dearth of late-night entertainment options in Boston, the get-off-my-lawn crew has two standard responses. One is that Boston isn’t New York; instead of partying until dawn, the argument goes, people here would rather stay home and diagram sentences until bedtime at 10 p.m. The other response is that late-night events mainly attract drunken college students who should choose more wholesome pursuits. The MFA event, however, ushered people into a parallel universe where Boston was a 24-hour city — and it was all upside.

Or so I gather from news reports and social media. As the years pass, I myself crash out earlier and earlier on weekends. (Let’s face it: Trying to shoehorn long relative clauses into tiny little diagrams can be pretty tiring.) But Boston is capable of accommodating people with different circadian rhythms. Or at least it should be.


While the Walsh administration has tried to make more room for night owls, state laws and baroque local licensing rules have been an obstacle to progress. The event at the MFA was a reminder of what Bostonians are missing. Let’s hope future #mfaNOW Overnights prove as popular as the first one — and spawn lots of imitators.

Dante Ramos can be reached at dante.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Facebook: facebook.com/danteramos or on Twitter: @danteramos.