Henry Moore’s Oval with Points.
The campus art collection is always open — no tickets required
By Ilene Dube | Photography by Weronika A. Plohn and Charles R. Plohn
While the Princeton University Art Museum will be closed for the next several years as construction on the new Sir David Adjaye-designed building is underway, there are still plenty of ways to experience its offerings.
As part of its commitment to maintaining a presence on campus, the museum opened Art@Bainbridge at Nassau and Vandeventer streets in 2019. Closed during the pandemic, Art@Bainbridge is expected to reopen this summer.
Alexander Phimister Proctor’s Pair of Tigers.
Last year, when stores were closing, the museum partnered with merchants to create Art for the Streets, showcasing reproductions of works from the collection in shop windows in Palmer Square and the Princeton Shopping Center. QR codes link to more information about artwork by Albrecht Durer, Edward Hopper, Edouard Manet, Ana Mendieta, Mario Moore, and Zhang Hongtu, as well as works from the Qing Dynasty, a beaded African tunic, an Edo-period Japanese print, and a sculpture of a Mayan god.
The museum’s virtual offerings of lectures, workshops, and symposiums have become so popular, quintupling museum membership, that Director James Steward plans to continue making them available. “We’re not putting that genie back in the bottle,” he said.
But for year-round enjoyment, nothing beats the outdoor sculpture collection. With 47 works already in the Campus Art Collection, additional commissions are underway. (The museum plans to announce these sometime in the future.)
Not only is the campus itself an arboretum but nestled within its archways and allees are works by significant artists including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Michele Oka Doner, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry, Kate Graves, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Louise Nevelson, Odili Donald Odita, Richard Serra, Ai Weiwei, Beverly Pepper, George Segal, Shahzia Sikander, Ursula von Rydingsvard, and more.
The Campus Art website (artmuseum.princeton.edu/campus-art) helps viewers navigate a self-guided tour. Walking tours can be broken down by neighborhood, and there is an audio component – curators and other experts take you behind the scenes to learn about the history of the sculpture, the artist, and the relationship of the artwork to the University.
The core was assembled for the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection, funded by an anonymous benefactor and named for the World War II fighter pilot and member of Princeton’s Class of 1945. As stipulated by the Putnam gift, the sculptures were installed outdoors so that students and the community could experience the works in the course of their daily lives.
Picasso’s Head of a Woman, between University Place and Pyne Drive, was one of the first acquisitions made by the Putnam Collection. It was executed by Carl Nesjar, from a one-foot-high study model Picasso made in 1962 from a folded and painted sheet metal, inspired in part by the paper cutouts he made for his sister as a child. To create the large sculpture we see on campus, Nesjar built wooden forms and injected them with liquid concrete. This was undertaken for an open seminar of undergraduates, in which they could observe and participate in the on-site re-creation of a master’s work. more