Shame in a Frame

updated 10/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

THERE ARE A LOT OF MUSEUMS for people who love fine art. But what about folks who hear "impressionist" and think "Rich Little"? Where is there a museum for them? If they're in West Roxbury, Mass., it's right there in Jerry Reilly's basement. It's called the Museum of Bad Art, and if you're looking for Rembrandts, you're in the wrong place.

The museum's mission, says Scott Wilson, 38, an antiques dealer and the museum's curator, is "to bring the worst of art to the widest of audiences." To that end, he and Reilly, 39, a software engineer, have strict curatorial standards, the most important being that nothing in their collection may cost more than $6.50, which means a lot of discarded family portraits, nightmarish landscapes and the rankest creations of rank amateurs.

The museum—or MOBA—had its unofficial beginnings three years ago, when Wilson fished a painting out of a trash bin. He was repelled—yet oddly fascinated—by the portrait of an elderly woman in a daisy-filled field under a sickening yellow sky. "It languished in my attic for about a year," says Wilson. "Then Jerry saw it and asked if he could hang it for a while. It got such a great response, he asked if I could get more. After a while we realized we had a museum."

MOBA, now up to 90 works, most via trash cans or tag sales, moves to a permanent home in nearby Dedham at the end of this month. There's a MOBA newsletter on the Internet, and there are T-shirts bearing a reproduction of Eileen, a ghastly 1950s floating-head portrait that Wilson calls the museum's poster child. And the best part? MOBA never has a problem with art thieves.

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