This summer I am working for a foundation in Palo Alto, California. The foundation where I am working has an initiative for the arts, so it has given me the opportunity to learn a bit about philanthropy in the art world. I have come to appreciate the importance of philanthropic organizations in supporting everything from large art museums to small coalitions of local artists.
I had a chance to sit down with a member of the arts team and discuss generally the standing of art museums in the world today. We discussed the trend towards increasing community engagement in many of the country’s large and small art museums. Community engagement means getting more members of the community into museums and using museums not just as places of passive observation, but of active participation. This conversation was especially enlightening for me because this is our goal as a Student Advisory Board. We work hard to bring students into the art museum that otherwise may not go. We want to show that art can be relevant to everyone, regardless of your other interests and pursuits at Princeton. Additionally, we are always looking for new ways to use the platform of the museum, whether it be through bringing visiting artists to campus or partnering with non-profit organizations. It’s nice to see that others within the museum community share these goals, as well.
My office is close to Stanford’s campus so I have spent several afternoons perusing their campus art museum. It has been fun for me to observe the differences and similarities between two similar institutions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that our exhibition, 500 Years of Italian Master Drawings, was on loan to them! You can see the familiar banner in the photo below.
The Stanford art museum, like Princeton’s, has a truly astounding collection, with works from all different eras. They also recently opened the Anderson Collection, which features an impressive collection of modern and contemporary artists.
One of my favorite artists, Wayne Thiebaud, is featured several times throughout their galleries. My earliest memory of being in a museum was at a Wayne Thiebaud exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and it certainly left an impression on me. I have always loved the simple geometry of many of his paintings and the fanciful escape that they often provide. His paintings are undoubtedly considered Pop Art due to his obsession with commercial objects. Below are a few examples from the Stanford Collection:
In his early career, Wayne Thiebaud was influenced by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. I think it is interesting to draw a comparison between Thiebaud’s style and one of Johns’ works from our collection (below). You can see similarities in the preoccupation with geometry and shape as well as large chunks of color. Yet, Johns’ work is a print, so the color is spotty and lightly applied, while Thiebaud is known for his think paints. When standing close to one of Thiebaud’s paintings you can clearly see the layers and layers of oil paint heavily piled onto the canvas.
My summer job is almost finished so I am looking forward to doing some travelling, and hopefully exploring some new museums!