Have you been to the Harvard Art Museums? We are so lucky in Boston to have museums like this — their permanent collection contains countless reasons to visit, plus the Harvard Art Museums have two special exhibitions each year. These exhibitions allow the museums to showcase a wider range of works spanning diverse media, genres, and time periods. Only a 5-10 minute walk from the red line, the Harvard Art Museums are open to the public 7 days a week. Currently, the special exhibition looks at Bauhaus and its relationship to Harvard University.
Whether you are visiting to see the permanent collection or a special exhibition, the Calderwood Courtyard is your first stop. The high ceilings and sky lights create an airy space full of light, surrounded by archways into the surrounding galleries. Even if you don’t plan to visit the museum, it is a great spot to stop in for a coffee with friends or a book!
Don’t miss the permanent exhibitions, but through July 28th especially make sure to visit the current special exhibition, Bauhaus and Harvard. This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, and so it is a fitting time to look back at this influential movement. The exhibition brings together nearly 200 works by 74 artists, which come almost entirely from the museums’ own extensive collections.
The Bauhaus school was founded in 1919 and closed 14 years later, but has had a lasting effect on art, architecture, and design. Experimentation with material, form, and color was a foundation of the school, a drastic break with the traditional art education models focused on copying the masters. By bringing together architecture, design, and art in a multidisciplinary way, the Bauhaus attempted to eliminate the hierarchies between fine art and applied art. The experimentation at the school fostered the beginnings for many later art movements.
Harvard University has had a long involvement with the Bauhaus, putting on the first Bauhaus exhibition in the United States in 1930, and becoming an unofficial center for the movement when founder Walter Gropius joined the department of architecture in 1937. Many other students followed him as they left Germany during the rise of Nazism. Today the Harvard Art Museums has the largest Bauhaus collection outside of Germany, with more than 32,000 (!) Bauhaus related objects, and a Bauhaus building and public art on campus.
The exhibition contains many diverse media, ranging from student color exercises to design objects, photographs, painting, and textiles. The geometric shapes and modern use of color are still a potent source of inspiration for today’s artists.
The largest piece in the exhibition is Verdure, by Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer. It was originally committed for the dining room at the Harvard Graduate Center, which was designed by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and his architecture firm. For decades, Harvard students dined next to this large painting, and for this exhibition it underwent a cleaning and restoration to bring it back to its original vibrancy. The painting’s size, at 20 feet by 6 feet, is impressive, and the swirling and shifting colors are mesmerizing.
After viewing the Bauhaus and Harvard exhibition, I had to visit the museum gift shop. I know I am not alone in my appreciation of museum gift shops — they always have such beautiful art books, interesting objects, and the unique notebooks and cards. Such a cute spot to find a gift for an art-appreciating friend!
You can visit the Bauhaus and Harvard exhibition through July 28th, and keep an eye out for the upcoming special exhibition at the Museums. One opens each September and another each January. Both exhibition openings involve a fun opening night celebration and late night hours — I’ve heard that the museums are beautiful at night!
The next special exhibition, Crossing Lines, Constructing Home, opens on September 6th. Using primarily pieces from the museums’ own collections, the show aims to illustrate concepts of political and cultural boundaries and evolving hybrid spaces and identities created by the movement of peoples. This examination of the immigrant experience sounds fascinating.
The Harvard Art Museums are open seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm, and is free for students, Harvard ID holders, museum members, Cambridge residents, youth under 18, active-duty military, Teachers’ Association members, and SNAP or EBT beneficiaries. (More about the museums here.) Adult tickets are $15, and seniors are $13, however all Massachusetts residents have free entry on Saturdays between 10am and noon. Details on entry here — we hope you visit soon!
This post is in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums, a very special place that we are excited to share with our readers.