Great art can be a source of solace

 
Albert Bierstadt, Mount Adams, Washington (detail), 1875. Princeton University Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Jacob N. BeamIt seems an understatement to say that we live in exceptional times. News of the coronavirus is front of mind for us all, and that news is changing by the hour, causing enormous degrees of stress and anxiety—to say nothing of the social isolation that many are already experiencing.
 
The health and safety of our human family—students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and visitors—is our highest priority. So I’d like to offer a few updates and insights into the continuing work of the Art Museum.

The Princeton University Art Museum remains open at the present time, and remains free to all. I suspect many of us are experiencing moments of stress and sadness. The experience of great art can be a source of solace, comfort, and renewal, and can offer reminders of the best of what we as humans are capable. Our galleries are graced with two exceptional exhibitions right now; I was in one of these—Cézanne: The Rock and Quarry Paintings—earlier today and felt immediately uplifted and calmed by the monumental beauty of Paul Cézanne’s art.

Paul Cézanne, Trees and Rocks, 1900–1904. Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee. Museum purchase from Cornelia Ritchie and Ritchie Trust No. 4 We have taken a number of steps to assure your safety and that of our team while we remain open:

  • It is now possible to have a nearly “touch-free” experience of the Museum.
  • We are asking everyone to practice appropriate social distancing, including refraining from handshakes and hugging.
  • We’ve canceled all group visits and in-person events to help make this possible.
  • Due to its smaller spaces and staffing limitations, Art@Bainbridge, our gallery annex on Nassau Street, will close temporarily from March 19 to at least April 5.
  • Housekeeping staff have received special training, and new disinfection protocols are in place.
  • Interactive tools in the galleries that require touching are being disabled or removed.
  • We’ve placed hand sanitizers in strategic locations.

Equally important, we are currently shaping new digital experiences—for those who may not wish or be able to visit, and more broadly in the event of future closure. Some of these experiences can already be found on our website, others will be added, and yet others will be offered as digital events. Please go to our website for the latest information.
 
The environment on our campus is changing rapidly. As you may have read, we are asking most of our students to go home for spring break starting this weekend, and to remain home and carry out their studies digitally for the remainder of the spring semester. This is devastating for many of our students, especially our seniors, and my heart is full for everyone whose life or business is being disrupted. But we will survive this time by thinking and working creatively and by staying connected, even if virtually for a time. Our good work continues. We remain your Museum, now and ever.

James Christen Steward
Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director