Campus Art Goes Mobile

Gaston Lachaise, American, 1882–1935: Floating Figure, 1927. Cast bronze, h. 131.5 cm, l. 218.5 cm. The John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection, Princeton University (y1969-72). Photo: Bruce M. WhiteThe Princeton campus, home to one of the country’s most significant collections of twentieth- and twenty-first-century sculpture, places extraordinary works of sculpture in the paths of members of the University community and visitors. Campus Art at Princeton, a new website designed with mobile access in mind, brings attention to the durable art that people walk by every day, highlighting the significance and stories that lie behind these artworks.
What began in 2009 as a plan for an interactive map has evolved into a multilayered website that is now live. The site’s audio feature allows visitors to hear the voices of Museum curators and other experts involved behind the scenes, including fabricators, installers, conservators, and photographers. For some of the sculptures, the voices of architects and historians are presented to contextualize the work within the surrounding architecture or in relation to University history. When the artists are living and available, we are able to hear them talk about their inspirations and processes. 
Along the way, visitors may be interested to learn that  
  • Henry Moore’s Oval with Points was inspired by an elephant skull kept in the artist’s studio;
  • George Rickey’s sculpture Two Planes Vertical Horizontal II is situated at the highest point on campus;
  • the first bronze cast of Gaston Lachaise’s Floating Figure was exhibited in 1935 at the Museum of Modern Art, where it remains;
  • the grooves, channels, and spires of the six-ton fountain in Scudder Plaza by James Fitzgerald are meant to symbolize Woodrow Wilson’s aspirations and frustrations;
  • the architect of the Plaza, Minoru Yamasaki, was also the architect of the World Trade Center; and
  • for a short time, the disks on Alexander Calder’s Five Disks: One Empty were painted orange to honor Princeton’s colors.

Scott Burton, American, 1939–1989: Public Table, 1978–79. Cast concrete, h. 83 cm, diam. 610 cm, diam. of top of sculpture: ca. 396 cm. Museum purchase, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a matching gift from the Mildred Andrews Fund (y1980-11). © 2013, Scott Burton, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo: Bruce M. White

For each of the forty-seven objects featured in Campus Art at Princeton, visitors will be able to access images, a description of the work, and audio contributions. Many of the sculptures offer special features, ranging from installation photographs to archival documents and highlighting the significance and stories that lie behind these artworks. The website encourages multiple points of entry and use: visitors can browse a light box of images and perhaps identify a work they walk by every day but don’t know much about. Or they can access an interactive map that encourages walking tours by dividing the sculptures into five different neighborhoods: Main Campus, Social Sciences and Engineering, The Natural Sciences, Residential Colleges, and Graduate College.

Installation of Fountain of Freedom. Photo: Princeton University LibraryThe next time you are on campus, take out your smartphone or tablet and visit Campus Art at Princeton to hear why Rudolf Hoflehner iwanted his sculpture Human Condition to rust, or to hear University Architect Ron McCoy discuss the architectural history of Scudder Plaza, where Fitzgerald’s Fountain of Freedom was erected in 1966. Whether standing in front of the sculpture with a handheld device or visiting the website, you will come away with a deeper sense of place and a greater understanding and appreciation of the remarkable art that graces Princeton’s campus.
Lisa Arcomano
Manager of Campus Collections
Juliana Ochs Dweck
Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow for Collections Engagement


More about the project

Campus Art at Princeton has been an exciting and successful collaborative effort not only between Museum departments—Campus Collections, Education, Information and Technology, Curatorial, Publishing and Communications—but also with other areas of the University, including the Office of the University Architect, Mudd Archives, Firestone Library, the Office of Design and Construction, and the Broadcast Center.
The texts used in the site are based on two existing publications: Patrick J. Kelleher, Living with Modern Sculpture: The John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection and the Office of Communications booklet Sculpture of Princeton University Including Works from The John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection.
The project has been made possible, in part, by generous support from the Kathleen C. Sherrerd Program Fund for American Art and the Virginia and Bagley Wright, Class of 1946, Program Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.