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Quirky creations find a loving home at Museum of Bad Art

The Museum of Bad Art in Dorchester, Massachusetts, features hundreds of paintings that all missed the mark in one way or another.
Posted at 1:28 PM, Feb 15, 2023

From a portrait of Jackie Kennedy looking into the eyes of George Washington to a painting of a queen proudly displaying what appears to be a chocolate chip cookie, there are plenty of reasons Louise Reilly Sacco says the art in the museum she oversees has missed the mark.

"Something has gone wrong in the execution," Sacco said.

As the director with the tongue-in-cheek title of "permanent acting interim executive director" of the Museum of Bad Art in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Sacco hardly ever uses the word "bad." But looking around at MOBA's collection, it's hard not to wonder, "What were these artists thinking?"

"We celebrate art that will be noticed in no other venue," Sacco said.

It was a friend of Sacco's brother who spotted a spectacularly bad painting put out on trash day. He told friends to collect other bad art they found on the curb and decided to have an art show as a joke.

That was three decades ago.

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"This was supposed to be around for one night and now it's been 30 years," Sacco said.

MOBA's collection now comprises hundreds of paintings that all missed the mark in one way or another.

"Sometimes the concept was beyond their skills. Other times, they didn't know which end of the paintbrush to grab but their heart and soul were in it," Sacco noted.

It's not just the art that draws people in. It's also the names and interpretations that can't be ignored.

A painting of President John F. Kennedy titled "President Kennedy Eating Ice Cream" reads, "By eliminating the background information and focusing on the president's face, the artist may have created the most repugnant image of one of the most photogenic political leaders the world has ever known."

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The description of an overweight cat looking at a basket of fruit titled "Fat Cat" reads, "This tubby tabby seems to be unhappy about the variety of snacks available."

"Just like the interpretation in any museum, it tells you why this piece is here," Sacco adds.

Before the pandemic, the gallery was located in the basement of a theater. But then it had to move out. That's how MOBA  ended up partnering with Dorchester Brewing Company in Boston. Art from the gallery now hangs right next to pinball machines and video games.

It turns out, bad art and good beer pair together like fine wine and cheese.

"The art definitely engages customers. We see people who weren't together talking about art now," said events manager Derek Rayner.

Sacco knows these paintings of George Washington and Jackie Kennedy are not works by Picasso, but she believes that this museum is proof that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

"We celebrate them," she said. "We love them."