Once upon a time, Boston’s  Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) was viewed as being on par with New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  on the vanguard of experimental modern art. While MoMA decided to collect the artists it exhibited, and now boasts the likes of Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns, the ICA felt that it could better remain on the cutting-edge by continually exhibiting new work. Oops.
Making up for lost time, however, in 2006 the Institute of Contemporary Art opened a new home on the waterfront (100 Northern Ave., 617/478-3100, www.icaboston.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Wed. and Sat.–Sun., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thurs. and Fri., $15 adults, $10 seniors and students, free children under 17, free to all Thurs. after 5 p.m.) in a space-age glass building that triples the size of the museum’s old home in the Back Bay , and more importantly adds a permanent collection for the first time.
In its old location, the Institute of Contemporary Art garnered a reputation for staging explosive exhibitions such as the first U.S. exhibition of the photos of Robert Mapplethorpe in the 1980s; in recent years, however, its exhibits of contemporary multimedia installations and photography has had a more uneven reception.
The new building, designed by edgy architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, has reinvigorated the museum, providing dramatic views of the waterfront from flexible gallery spaces, and adding a 325-seat performing arts theater overlooking the harbor.
It has already set tongues wagging in the art world with its successful exhibition of pop graffiti artist Shepard Fairey, best known for the enigmatic Andre the Giant tags in cities all over the country, and more recently, for the iconic Barack Obama campaign poster that was ubiquitous during his presidential campaign. On his way to the opening exhibition, Fairey was arrested by Boston police for vandalism—only adding to the publicity of the show.