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Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories

  • Address:
    328 Lomita Drive
    Stanford, CA 94305
  • Time: Time Varies by Day
  • Price: Free

Spanning the history of Western art from antiquity to the mid-20th century, the first iteration of Object Lessons: Art & Its Histories embodies our belief in the power of close looking and demonstrates the museum’s deep commitment to academic engagement and teaching through objects. The exhibition is organized around the curriculum of Introduction to the Visual Arts, a two-part survey course led by professors Bissera Pentcheva and Alexander Nemerov, who will convene weekly sections in the museum’s galleries. Building on their expertise and teaching priorities (along with those of additional faculty members, Nancy K. Troy and Jody Maxmin), the exhibition’s layout and interpretive texts reflect a combination of faculty ideas and those of Cantor curators, demonstrating the benefits of bringing multiple voices and approaches to thinking about art. Object Lessons invites all museum visitors to be part of a great classroom, in which questions and dialogue are welcome and there is freedom to challenge assumptions about the world in which we live.

The gallery for early European art presents antiquities from Egypt, Greece and Rome, plus a selection of European religious paintings and sculpture dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Highlights include a focused installation titled Hidden Elements: Two Greek Vases Reveal Their Stories, based on new research directed by the Cantor’s Art + Science Learning Lab. The display uses digital interactive stations to explore findings generated by conservators, Stanford students, and materials scientists in consultation with Professor Jody Maxmin, a specialist in the arts of the Classical world. The Robert Mondavi Family Gallery, meanwhile, showcases European paintings from the Cantor’s permanent collection dating from the late-16th century to the late-19th century.

Continuing the chronological progression of Object Lessons, the Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery features paintings, sculptures and works on paper created between the late-19th and the mid-20th centuries. The installation explores the ways in which modernists working in Europe and the United States employed traditional subject matter—landscapes, cityscapes, still lifes and portraits—in their campaigns to create radical new modes of picture making in the modern age. Professor Nancy K. Troy, an expert in European and American Modernism, has been a vital partner in developing this section of Object Lessons, and key works on view will be studied in her graduate seminar Cubism: Theory, Practice, History and undergraduate lecture course Modernism and Modernity.

This reinstallation of the Cantor’s major galleries, developed in close partnership with the Stanford faculty, celebrates the museum’s commitment to thinking critically about art objects and pushing at the boundaries of what is possible at a 21st-century university art museum. The revitalized museum galleries are open both physically—offering long sightlines that elucidate visual and thematic connections across the history of art—and intellectually, allowing space within the galleries for teaching and talking. The new constellation of objects on view sparks fresh discoveries within the museum’s collection while also better elaborating the multiple histories that can be told through the museum’s holdings.