Art on Campus

  • Ann Hamilton, O N E E V E R Y O N E • Caleb (left) and O N E E V E R Y O N E • Alexandra (right).
    Ann Hamilton, O N E E V E R Y O N E • Caleb (left) and O N E E V E R Y O N E • Alexandra (right).
  • Ayşe Erkmen, Places, 2015. Full credit below.
    Ayşe Erkmen, Places, 2015. Full credit below.
  • Ainsa I by Jaume Plensa. Located outside Bauer Hall atrium, Olin Business School. Photo by Stan Strembicki.
    Ainsa I by Jaume Plensa. Located outside Bauer Hall atrium, Olin Business School. Photo by Stan Strembicki.
  • Spencer Finch, detail of East Meets West (Atlantic), 2014. Full credit below.
    Spencer Finch, detail of East Meets West (Atlantic), 2014. Full credit below.

Through the Art on Campus program at Washington University, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is cultivating a growing collection of public artworks by nationally and internationally recognized artists. Reflecting the diversity, creativity, and scholarship of the University, these artworks enhance the cultural, intellectual, and visual experience of all who visit as well as those who study and work here.

By giving public art a strong presence throughout campus, the program reframes and transforms the environment, provoking consideration of both place and space. Participating artists use a wide variety of media, creating works that range from standalone sculptures to architectural interventions that variously engage with the social and physical contexts of their sites. Reflecting a broad and interdisciplinary discourse on public art, the works prompt consideration of such issues as the power of place to illustrate history and the impact of public art on social interaction.

In addition to fostering dialogue, the Art on Campus program seeks to develop understanding and appreciation of art as well as provide a legacy for future generations.

Established in 2010, Art on Campus is administered by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts through the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. It is funded by a Washington University policy that sets aside one percent of eligible capital projects and renovations on the Danforth Campus for the purchase and commission of public art. A campus-wide committee guides the program and is charged with identifying locations, selecting artists, and approving proposals. The Kemper Art Museum’s Director and Chief Curator and the University Architect cochair the committee to ensure that the University’s short- and long-term plans for capital projects are incorporated into the planning for art installations and that artworks meet museum standards for aesthetic distinction and historical significance.

Audio Tour
To assist your exploration of Art on Campus, the descriptions of the artworks below are also available as an audio tour, which can be accessed here >>

A PDF of the Art on Campus brochure can be accessed here >>


Ayşe Erkmen's Places, 2015

Samuel Cupples Hall II

This work by Turkish artist Ayşe Erkmen, entitled Places, consists of nine large-scale concrete forms that will be covered with mosaic tiles. The forms are arranged in a half circle on the lawn outside of Cupples Hall II; each one consists of multiple surfaces that can be used to sit on, sleep on, lean on, read on, or just to look at. The intent is to make an "aesthetic and functional work" for the site, which experiences significant pedestrian circulation of students, faculty, and visitors to campus. Installation was completed in spring 2015.

Spencer Finch's East Meets West, 2014

Karl D. Umrath Hall

Spencer Finch is an internationally recognized painter, photographer, and installation artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. Often referred to as a conceptual landscape painter, Finch plays with atmospheric effects and ephemeral notions such as time in his works to examine the ways in which we perceive the outside world. 

For his site-specific project East Meets West, Finch traveled to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, where he used a colorimeter—a device that measures the average color and temperature of light that exists naturally in a specific place and time—to calculate the color of the light on the oceans. He also made watercolors that reproduce his personal observations of the colors and shapes of waves. Combining the empirical qualities of technology and the subjective nature of painting, Finch created light boxes that produce an aesthetic experience of the fleeting, temporal nature of the observed world. Installed in Karl D. Umrath Hall, home to a variety of interdisciplinary humanities programs, East Meets West evokes the complexities of humanistic and scientific efforts to comprehend the outside world.

Tom Friedman's Swamp Creature Friends, 2016

South 40 Swamp between College Hall and Umrath House

Swamp Creature Friends is a commission by the American artist and Washington University alumnus Tom Friedman. It was created in 2016 in conjunction with the renovation of Helen F. Umrath House in Washington University’s South 40 residential area. Friedman is well known for works that make unconventional use of ordinary materials and that play with notions of perception, logic, and humor, often spurring basic questions such as “what is it?” and “where did it come from?” In turn, these questions initiate an ontological inquiry into our relationship to the objects.

Creature from the Black Lagoon, while simultaneously paying homage to the historical nickname of the grassy field where it is located. It also recalls similar strategies of past works by the artist, such as Loop from 1995, which Friedman created using all the strands from a box of spaghetti that he cooked and then connected together into one form. Swamp Creature Friends combines the artist’s interest in networked systems with his exploration of the human figure, which stems in part from his history of self-portraiture dating back to the early 1990s, when he began making abstract figurative sculptures of himself using various materials, including Styrofoam, wood, and even sugar cubes. The interwoven nature of Swamp Creature Friends combined with its proximity to residence halls can be seen as a metaphor for the network of social relationships that are part of the college experience.

Katharina Grosse's Untitled, 2016

Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center

This site-specific installation by the German artist Katharina Grosse was commissioned for the Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, which opened in 2016. Consisting of a dramatic intervention covering the center’s interior entrance wall, the work exemplifies the artist’s signature spray-gun technique and the fusion of painting and architecture for which she is internationally known. As with Grosse’s previous work, such as her 2003 installation in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, the painting transgresses the architectural boundaries of the space, moving over multiple surfaces and onto adjoining walls in a strong diagonal direction. Vibrant primary and secondary colors are densely layered, and the material plasticity of the artist’s chosen medium is emphasized through drips and large areas of overspray, suggesting a sense of dynamic movement and revealing the gestural marks of the artist’s process. Significantly, Grosse leaves one area at the edge of the entrance wall unpainted, exposing the original layer of the architecture and simultaneously allowing the painting to frame itself. Immediately to the left of this unpainted area is a vertical stripe that displaces the diagonal gestures of the composition and reinforces the sense of a frame. As with the artist’s use of the spray gun, this displacement mediates the directness of the painting process and adds a self-reflexive element to the installation.

The sophisticated interplay with the architectural space results in a contextual work that also asserts its own sense of autonomy. To develop her large-scale installations, Grosse draws on a wide range of art historical precedents, including fresco painting, street graffiti, and Abstract Expressionism. Situated within the University’s Athletic Complex, this work’s vibrant and active presence generates an immersive experience that intensifies awareness of both the environment and one’s own body as one passes through the multistoried space.

Ann Hamilton's O N E E V E R Y O N E • St. Louis, 2015

Hillman Hall

At the core of the Brown School's programs is a recognition of individual peoples and experiences. Seeing and being seen—representation in language and in image—form the basis of contact, exchange, and expression; they are also the very substance of this project. O N E E V E R Y O N E • St. Louis was developed by Ann Hamilton for Thomas and Jennifer Hillman Hall, in response to and in collaboration with the Brown School. During a pair of weeklong residencies in spring 2015, Hamilton photographed nearly 300 volunteers from the Brown School community and three partner organizations (U.S. Vets, Better Family Life, and the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County). Positioning herself and her camera on one side of a semitransparent membrane, she guided and posed the sitters on the other side using only her voice; each touch of a face, a hand, or a selected research-related object against the membrane is revealed in focus, while the sitter's gesture or body outline is rendered more softly. A selection of 33 of these portraits, curated by Hamilton and translated into porcelain enamel panels, is installed along the curved interior walls of the second and third floors, which bracket the Forum Room and the building's central gathering area.

Video: Ann Hamilton discusses ONEEVERYONE • St. Louis >>

Jaume Plensa's Ainsa I, 2013

Bauer Hall

Over the past three decades, Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa has established an international reputation for creating public sculptures that are both monumental in scale and emotionally engaging in subject matter. Working with a wide variety of materials, he has returned to and transformed the genre of figurative sculpture at the beginning of the twenty-first century with works that explore the intersection between the human form, language, and technology. With these sculptures, Plensa reconsiders the critical question of what it means to be human today. Departing from the idea of sculptures as self-sufficient and autonomous, he creates work that responds through scale and form to its immediate environment, demanding active engagement on the part of the viewer—not only through seeing but also through embodied experience.

Plensa conceived of Ainsa I as a site-specific project to be located outside the south entrance to the new atrium for Bauer Hall, designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners. Comprised of a filigree of stainless steel letters from nine different alphabets, the large-scale seated human figure embodies the diversity that characterizes Olin Business School and the University at large. It also transforms the experience of its site, offering both a new focal point and a transition between human and architectural scale, while calling attention to the essentially communal nature of the building plaza.

Image credits

Ann Hamilton, O N E E V E R Y O N E • Caleb (left) and O N E E V E R Y O N E • Alexandra (right).

Ayşe Erkmen, Places, 2015. Stainless steel reinforced concrete with glass mosaic tile, dimensions variable. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Samuel Cupples Hall II and Scott Rudolph Hall, 2015.

Jaume Plensa, Ainsa I, 2013. Stainless steel and limestone, 126 x 84 5/8 x 149 5/8". Installation view, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Olin Business School, 2013. Photo by Stan Strembicki.

Spencer Finch, detail of East Meets West (Atlantic), 2014. Two light boxes with Fujitrans prints and Plexiglas, 50 x 78 x 4" each. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Karl D. Umrath Hall, 2014.