Modern and Contemporary Art

The Department of Modern and Contemporary Art encompasses art in most media, including painting, sculpture, video, and performance, created in all countries between 1870 and the present day. The museum began to systematically collect modern art in the late 1940s. Many of the key works in its collection were presented by donors, mainly by alumni, as gifts or bequests. The Museum’s collection is comprised of an important group of late landscapes by Claude Monet and an enigmatic painting by Édouard Manet, while a small but stellar group of works by such artists as Odilon Redon, Vasily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Emil Nolde, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, and Jean Arp represent twentieth-century modernism. A rare late work by Ilya Repin is one of the artist’s most important paintings outside of Russia. Highlights of the Museum’s postwar collection include Willem de Kooning’s Black Friday, from the artist’s breakthrough exhibition in 1948. Thanks to strategic purchases as well as a series of gifts, some in honor of William C. Seitz, Graduate School Class of 1955, the Museum is home to a strong collection of postwar art: works by Romare Bearden, Lee Bontecou, Dan Flavin, Yayoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Morris Louis, Ad Reinhardt, Martha Rosler, David Smith, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, Hannah Wilke, and others compose this part of the collection. The Museum’s holdings in Pop art are particularly impressive, and they include works by George Segal, Tom Wesselmann, and Andy Warhol, whose Blue Marilyn was donated by alumnus Alfred Barr in 1978. In 2008, the Museum renewed its commitment to contemporary art, and since then, its collection in this area has flourished. Priority has been given to works that contribute in significant ways to the field and exemplify the most pressing cultural, social, and philosophical issues of their day. Recent acquisitions include pieces by Doug Aitken, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Polly Apfelbaum, Sanford Biggers, Ellen Gallagher, Wade Guyton, Matthew Day Jackson, Wangechi Mutu, and Javier Téllez. 

Major New Sculpture Commissioned for Museum Entrance

The Museum’s front lawn has been home to a number of compelling works of art, from Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Woman to Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Big Figures to such short-term installations as Doug Aitken’s migration (empire) and, most recently, two remarkable sculptures by Alexander Calder. Now the lawn is poised to receive a new commission designed especially for the site by Doug and Mike Starn.

El Anatsui at Princeton

Join us for a conversation between influential Ghanaian artist El Anatsui and Chika Okeke-Agulu, associate professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology. This public program takes place during Anatsui’s tenure as the 2015 Sarah Lee Elson, Class of 1984, International Artist-in-Residence.

Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds

Though Lee Bontecou is best known for her three-dimensional work, drawing has always been an equally important component of her artistic practice. Calling her drawings “worldscapes,” Bontecou has produced an incredible body of work that propels us into fantastic spaces and strange terrains.

Kelly Baum

Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Kelly Baum has been working as a curator and scholar for almost fifteen years. Prior to her arrival at Princeton in 2008, she held curatorial positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. Kelly has organized several exhibitions, including Carol Bove; Jedediah Caesar; The Sirens’ Song; Transactions; Nobody's Property: Art, Land, Space, 2000–2010; Doug Aitken: migration (empire); Felix Gonzalez-Torres: “Untitled”; and New Jersey as Non-Site, for which she received a Warhol Curatorial Research Fellowship. Kelly also has published dozens of essays on subjects ranging from Ana Mendieta and Santiago Sierra to Michèle Bernstein and the Situationist International in such journals as October, Art Journal, TDR: The Drama Review, and the Princeton University Art Museum's Record. In addition to overseeing the museum’s Sarah Lee Elson, Class of 1984, International Artist in Residence Program and serving as a curatorial adviser to the University’s campus art committee, she is currently researching the exhibition Beckett’s Decade, to open in spring 2017.