Brown Sign: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

P1020506University art collections serve several communities.  Their primary mission is to provide examples for students in art majors, but students in related fields such as history can benefit.  My bias is that students in any major would grow their appreciation for their field… engineering, sciences, human and natural studies, commerce and politics… by understanding how artists have viewed images over the centuries.  Secondary audiences for university art collections include residences of the nearby communities and travelers who are looking for a place to visit other than the major sites of the regions.  That would include us, as we spent a couple of hours over at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center museum, while visiting with family in California.

P1020510You may recall that I wrote about the Rodin sculpture garden, outside the museum, back in February.  And, a winter ago, I wrote about another art museum affiliated with the Rhode Island School of Design.  On this trip, we had an afternoon free to wander a few of the rooms and two special exhibits.  Even better than the location (15 minutes from my parents’ home), the museum is free to the public, so we did not feel pressured to “take it all in” with this visit.  We will get back during future visits to the area.

P1020504One aspect that I enjoy with university art museums is the comprehensive survey display of their collection.  Most of this level of museum are smaller in size than the major metropolis museums, in which I could pitch a tent and live for two weeks before concluding that I had seen most of what floats my boat.  No, the university collections usually span the course of history with representative examples to whet one’s appetite.  Maybe a food analogy is in order:  this is a tapas bar, not a 5 star, seven-course meal.  Now, if I could get a glass of Syrah to take with me from gallery to gallery (hint, curators, marketing opportunity).  I would expect to pay premium for that glass to support the arts and education, of course.

P1020511The Cantor Art Center is housed on two levels, with patron-named galleries for European, Native American, and Asian-Pacific region art.  We wandered backwards from the contemporary art galleries though the 19th century European-American art galleries, then to the sculpture galleries specializing in Rodin’s works.  With two special exhibits, containing paintings by Jacob Lawrence and 500 years of Italian illustrations, our afternoon was complete.

For university collections, the special exhibits serve a couple of purposes.  Often these are from collections of other smaller museums.  This allows the hosting museum to show works which are not part of their P1020522inventory, and if they have a concentration of artifacts they can display those in other regions of the country.  Most museums have thousand of items for which they have no permanent exhibit space.  Rather than protecting these in vaults, setting them up for traveling provides them with at least a temporary option for viewing.  Also, with special exhibits changing several times per year, students, local residents, and travelers have reason to return. Until next time…

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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12 Responses to Brown Sign: Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University

  1. Barneysday says:

    We try to hit the smaller, local museums as often as possible. Some amazing displays.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      The staff and docens enjoys that visitors make their way to their museums. They are usually quite proud showing off their collections. Look for the small places on your next trip.

  2. cindy knoke says:

    My hubby went to grad school here. Love your shots~

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Small world! Thanks for the complement on the photos. I see some people whiz by taking cell-phone shots of everything, but not pausing to actually look at the art work. I’ve gone to taking gallery shots (when allowed) to show us engaged in the process. I can buy the museum catalogues for clean reproductions.

  3. What a great place, even the building is a piece of art.

  4. KerryCan says:

    It looks like a beautiful space! University museums often seem overlooked but, I agree, the are always worth a visit!

  5. rommel says:

    Good thing they even let you take photographs. Most displays in this kind of setting, they don’t allow anybody to take pictures. I always seem to enjoy the sculptures that the paintings.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I am noticing that more art museums are allowing photography in their galleries (not special exhibits). Flash and tripods are not allowed. I think they gave up on having securing call out “No photography” as everyone is now a photographer with their cell phones. Also, they realize that blogs (aka my reviews), Intagram, Pintrist, FB, etc. are free advertizing. Generating a buzz is what brings in more folks. Of course, I do wonder how many people return to all those cell phone photos of art they never spent time to actually look at? When we were walking through the Vatican Museum recently, I noticed hords of people literally walking and video taping the ceilings and walls as their tour group passed by. Watching those clips must be a test for motion sickness 🙂 Next time your are in Palo Alto, stop at the museum and enjoy the Rodin rooms.

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