Institute of Contemporary Art

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Since 1936, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has endeavored to educate, entertain, and enthrall the public with the wonders of modern art across several media. With a rich history of evolution and relocation, its new purpose-built home in the Seaport District in the south part of Boston is as much a draw as the works it holds inside.

About the Museum

Like art and the artists who create it, the ICA has had somewhat of an eclectic journey to bring it to its present state. Throughout the first 70 or so years of its existence, the Institute changed its name and location over a dozen times. And though it has consistently been seen as an icon on the contemporary artistic scene, it has only been amassing a permanent collection of contemporary work since 2000. The good news is that, since its 2006 move to 100 North Avenue in the southern part of the city of Boston, ICA has flourished even more.

Yet despite its near-constant state of flux for most of its history, one fact has remained constant: the organization’s mission to break ground in the field of contemporary artistic expression through a focus upon all the artistic media available to modern man. This includes, but is not limited to, the traditional visual arts as well as film, performance, and literature. As such, the ICA has been instrumental throughout its history in bringing promising young artists to the public’s attention, including showcasing the works of names as well-known as Andy Warhol, Kara Walker, and Roy Lichtenstein early in their careers, and helping to launch the museum careers of many others.

The other side of the coin is ICA’s dedication to education in the arts and the cultivation of artistic talent among young people, especially teens. In addition to frequent classes, lecture series, installations, and camps aimed at youth, the ICA created Fast Forward, a nationally-known teen filmmaking program which allows talented young people the chance to make their own documentary in conjunction with and utilizing the resources of the Institute.

The current home of ICA was designed by an emerging design firm based in New York, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It is the first new museum built in the city in over a century, a massive, contemporary structure that has received quite a bit of praise in its own right. The building was designed to work well with the pier on which it sits as well as dually showcase the focus of contemporary art along with the education in the arts so desperately lacking in many regular schools’ curricula. A 65,000 square foot structure that sits on Fan Pier in South Boston, the building was designed to include two galleries, classroom space, and a world-class performance space that has since hosted world premier performances by the Mark Morris Dance Group (2007) and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (2011).

Main Attraction

Because of its diverse focuses in the area of contemporary art, visiting the ICA can be done in any number of ways. The most popular attraction is obviously the museum itself. Regular gallery exhibits are open Tuesday-Sunday and admission is priced for adults (18+), students (with ID), and seniors (65+). Youth under 17 are always free. There are frequent free admissions days as well which may be open to families or all members of the general public.

Once in the museum, there are several ways to look around. Free guided tours which may focus on the exhibits, the museum’s architecture, or any other number of features championed by the ICA are offered on a rotational basis. There are also free audio tours that can be accessed through a borrowed iPod, personal MP3 download, or cellphone—all are free of charge.

In addition to the basic viewing of the museum and its special exhibits, there is also a full performance schedule which includes, film, drama, dance, and music. The prices for performances vary and are separate from museum entrance fees.

There are also lectures, classes, play dates for children, and seasonal specials such as the Art of Summer. Educator resources are also available both online and at the museum itself. There is also a café and shop on premises.

Why It’s a Must-See

For those who love contemporary art, artists themselves, or families looking for a fun and interactive way to enjoy a day in Boston, the Institute for Contemporary Art is the way to go. With 65,000 square feet of space in which to explore all aspects of artistic expression, there is literally something for everyone here making the ICA an integral stop on any Boston trip.

Where to Buy It


There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Institute of Contemporary Art either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. Institute of Contemporary Art is available on the Go Boston Card.