A workplace comedy skewering the modern art world by observing the politics and interpersonal drama of a controversial museum, from the crust punk guards to the overworked interns to the bourgeois curators.
Any modern art museum is rich with ruthless ambition, unbridled pretentiousness, unchecked stress, and simmering controversy. The art itself — while often shocking and strange — is incidental to the human drama that occurs when so many people are trying to set themselves apart. From aspiring artists working as guards to power brokers in the boardroom, BoFA explores the diversity of character within the museum's various departments, watching rivalries, friendships, and steamy affairs flower. With a rotating cast of guests, interns, and visiting artists, there is no shortage of fresh interpersonal drama.
Taking inspiration from real personalities and drawing from the political and cultural trends of today, BoFA doesn't flinch away from hot topics, instead viewing them through the absurd lens of modern art. While there is some talk of the actual art world, references are typically headline-grabbing events and big names — Picasso, Warhol, Basquiat, Keith Haring. The ecosystem of the museum is self-contained and operates by its own quirky rules. However, intrusions from the outside world occur when the museum attracts media attention or public ire. We occasionally venture out into the private lives of staff, getting glimpses into how they live outside work. The distribution of focus is even, giving time to employees and artists on every level of the food chain. The lifeblood of the show — and of the museum — is its diversity
Tone & Style
BoFA is a quirky, hectic, high-energy comedy of capers that gets its energy from infighting, jealousy, and dramatic stunts. Each episode illustrates the interconnected nature of the museum as crises expand and escalate to involve more people. At the end of each episode, the conflict or controversy in question is magically resolved, making this observation: The museum is an adult playground where — no matter how high-stakes everything feels — nothing really matters.
There are a few running gags throughout the season: BoFA is in a constant struggle to retain funding. At the end of each season, the museum is forced to close, and at the beginning of every season, they’ve miraculously found new funds and the staff return from various odd jobs. The curators are consistently denying the phallic nature of the art, and in each episode, they choose a different buzzword or phrase to overuse. Women are frequently shown doing manual labor in high heels and old white people are the main demographic at every event, fundraiser, and opening.
BoFA is set in a modern art museum named the Building of Fine Arts (BoFA) in an unspecific metropolis — similar to MoMA or the Whitney in New York, LACMA in Los Angeles, or the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
The gallery spaces have white walls, polished concrete floors, high ceilings, and clean lighting. Many galleries have small alcoves for video installations. There are always new galleries exhibitions being installed, galleries taped off and filled with plastic sheeting. The open galleries are populated with bizarre works of modern art. For inspiration, use THE BIG FOUR OH by Adrian Piper — an installation consisting of a video of the artist dancing to seventies funk, jars of piss on a table, and a disassembled suit of armor on the floor among scattered baseballs.
The offices are on the fourth floor, lit with natural light from large windows overlooking the city. Many employees use standing desks, and their spaces are filled with quirky personal touches, like toys, photos, and artwork. Trendy perks like Sodastreams, exercise balls, and massages are commonplace. They often play music or do yoga. The executive offices are obscenely nice, with expensive Scandinavian furniture and other marks of luxury – wet bars, pool tables, and fish tanks.
The basement contains the museum’s archives — cluttered rooms filled with priceless works of art stored haphazardly in piles.
Guards Break Room
The guards take breaks in a windowless underground space with ugly fluorescent lights and low ceilings. They have a filthy sofa, a couple of often-broken vending machines, a radio, and a shitty old TV. Names and obscene messages are carved into the walls. There’s a bulletin board covered in flyers for art openings and punk shows.
A winding labyrinth of hedges and large modern sculptures — Jeff Koons poodles and Claes Oldenburg ice cream cones.
On the roof is a zen garden overlooking the city where staff members come to be alone or smoke cigarettes.
The concession areas and restaurants are clean and trendy, meant for gatherings of wealthy donors and tastemakers. The food is experimental and expensive — think molecular gastronomy and oxygen bars.
Museum Director, 65
Severe bob haircut, perfect skin, hip glasses. Always dressed in legacy couture like Chanel, Margiela, or Prada. Distinguished and intimidating.
Most staff members only go to her when they're in trouble. She excels at art world politics, deftly squeezing donations from the upper crust through flattery and guile. Her suite is frequented by A-list celebrities, politicians, and the artistic elite. Her background is mysterious — despite her elegance, she secretly grew up Virginia trailer trash.
Fatal flaw: Treats everything like a game, misinterpreting earnest and genuine interactions as calculated.
Head of Acquisitions, 50
Thick glasses, portly, bald. An anxious academic whose appearance never takes priority — always schlubby with a coffee stain on his shirt.
Encyclopedic knowledge of the art world with very strong opinions, never shy to express distaste. Often to office punching bag but always a good sport (up to a point). Lifelong bachelor with no personal life. Heated professional rivalry with Ty thanks to vague drama in their past.
Fatal flaw: No confidence in his own talent, constantly second-guessing himself.
Curatorial Intern, 26 (lead)
Young, handsome Sikh hipster who wears a dastār and trendy but nondescript business casual clothes from ASOS or Zara.
Chill guy with a good sense of humor, happy to mix it up with guards or office staff. Will do anything to succeed but doesn’t usually know what to do. Often used as a pawn between higher-ups. Gets entangled in a secret romance with Helga.
Fatal flaw: Being too go-with-the-flow gets him in trouble, both professionally and romantically.
Assistant Curator, 37
A little nerdy, a little mousy, but cleans up well. Her wardrobe is eclectic and thrifted.
Ambitious but terrible at museum politics. Easily overwhelmed and almost always frazzled, she doesn’t handle stress well. Knows a lot about art and has keen insights but struggles to speak up. Sometimes, though, she gets fed up and explodes.
Fatal flaw: People-pleaser — a trait stemming from a rough childhood — and tends to let people walk all over her.
Head Curator, 39 (lead)
Dapper, hip, and handsome (but not as hot as he thinks). Wears Thom Browne with Tom Ford glasses.
Charming ladder-climber. Eager to please those above him and doesn’t think twice about stepping on those below him. Wants Helga’s office and already sees himself there. Machiavellian soul with virtually zero moral compass and no qualms about forging, stealing, or cheating to achieve his goals.
Fatal flaw: Though it’s the reason for his success, his ruthlessness creates enemies.
Guard, 21 (lead)
Cute artsy girl with Tomboy tendencies. Off the clock, she wears Doc Martens with flannels and the occasional sundress.
Crude sense of humor and unable to resist a wisecrack, often offending old white donors and guests. Aspiring artist who specializes in avant-garde video work but can be self-sabotaging. Often the subject of crushes but always laughs them off. Has a lot of dreams but very little ambition. Can be found hitting a wax pen in the nooks and crannies of the museum.
Fatal flaw: Never takes anything seriously, especially when it’s important.
Punk scenester who embellishes her guard uniform with pins and patches. Off the clock, she wears a leather jacket and — on special occasions — a beret.
‘Fuck you’ attitude, forcing leftist politics into conversations and often getting in heated arguments. Has moral qualms with almost everything the museum does. Plays bass in a small-time punk band and draws the band’s posters. Has a secret crush on Belle.
Fatal flaw: Prideful and incapable of admitting when she’s wrong.
Head of Security, 40
Butch lesbian with thick glasses. No idea how to dress when she’s not in uniform.
Former marine who never shook the lifestyle, she brings her own tactical gear to work — taser, zip ties, etc. She’s an incompetent boss who acts tough but is a complete pushover. Too invested in the job, she goes overboard when she perceives an ‘issue.’
Installation Technician, 29
Muscular farm boy with a perpetual dip in his lip. Dresses exclusively in Carhartt workwear.
Handy with tools, he can whip anything up out of thin air. Out of place in the art world and continuously baffed by what’s going on around him. Unflappable and often the voice of reason when everyone else has lost their minds.
Head Janitor, 65
Clumsy and disheveled man in an ill-fitting uniform.
Constantly making bumbling mistakes that put the entire museum in jeopardy. Though he’s terrible at his job, he’s self-serious and treats everything like it’s high stakes.
The Square (2017)
Director Ruben Östlund
Better Off Ted (2009)
Creator Victor Fresco
30 Rock (2006)
Creator Tina Fey