Outside Art: The Great Outdoor Sculptures of Princeton University

All over Princeton University, colorful, interesting and some mystifying pieces of art liven up the campus environment. And, while passersbys appreciate the art that surrounds them, the looming question, ‘What does it mean?’ often crosses the minds of observers.

From the giant fountain in front of Scudder Plaza to the huge, color-laden stained glass display outside of the art museum, all the way to the ‘emerald green thing’ between Stanhope Hall and West College, each piece of art adorning the campus has its own backstory – some of which we hope to explain a little bit about in this blog segment.

(Any) Body Oddly Propped (2015)

Any Body Oddly Propped

  • Created by artists Mike and Doug Stern
  • Made from glass, steel, and bronze
  • Located on the front lawn of the Princeton University Art Musuem
  • Inspired by energy systems found in nature
  • Invites visitors to linger amidst the sculpture and experience it under constantly shifting light conditions
  • Weighs nearly 8 tons and is constructed of six 18-foot tall colored glass panels

    Cubi Xiii (1963)
    Cubi XIII

  • Created by artist David Smith (1906-1965)
  • Made from stainless steel
  • Located between McCormick Hall and Whig Hall
  • Installed in 1969
  • David’s Smith’s final and most famed sculptures
  • The geometric shapes are assembled to evoke the human figure
  • Cubi Xiii traveled widely between the years of 1964-1969 before finding a home at Princeton Univeristy
  • Smith polished the stainless steel so that it would reflect the color of its surroundings
  • One in a series of 28 sculptures. One sold for over $23.8 million

    Centaur  (1954)
    Centaur with Pipes

  • Created by artist Dimitri Hadzi (1921-2006)
  • Located in the Prospect Gardens
  • Installed in 1971
  • Made from cast bronze
  • Inspired by Hadzi’s lifelong interest in mythology
  • His work is in the collections of many major museums, among them the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
  • The fountain was commissioned by President Robert F. Goheen, a classicist, when Prospect House was still home to the University’s president

    Public Table (1979)
    Public Table

  • Created by artist Scott Burton (1939-1989)
  • Located between East Pyne Hall & Murray-Dodge Hall
  • Made from cast concrete
  • Installed in 1998
  • Burton’s work has been described as “sculpture in love with furniture”
  • It’s an actual usable table where students and passersby can socialize or study
  • Based on an identical example in the sculpture garden at General Mills in Minneapolis, MN
  • Burton believed that “art should place itself not in front of, but around, behind, and underneath the audience.”

    Oval with Points (1970)
    Oval with Points

  • Created by artist Sir Henry Moore (1898-1986)
  • Located between Stanhope Hall and West College
  • Made from bronze
  • Installed in 1971
  • Said to have been inspired by an elephant’s skull
  • The appearance of the sculpture changes when viewed from various angles. Some see resemble a face and as you walk further around, the face will contort like a comedy/tragedy masks on a theater façade.
  • There are other casts of the work in Kew Gardens and Columbus Museum of Art

    Head of a Woman (1971)
    Head of a woman

  • Originally created by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
  • Located between Spelman Halls and New South Building
  • Installed in 1971
  • Artist, Carl Nejar executed the sculpture from a 12-inch maquette that Picasso had completed in 1962
  • The sculpture is intended to depict the essence of the female form
  • Carl Nejar was often referred to as Picasso’s right arm
  • The sculpture is nearly 16’ high

    The Hedgehog and the Fox (2000)
    The Hedgehog and the Fox

  • Created by artist Richard Serra (1939)
  • Located between Lewis Library and Fine Hall
  • Made from Core-Ten steel
  • Installed in 2000
  • The title of the sculpture refers to an essay “The Hedgehog & the Fox” by Isaiah Berlin that points to how scholars become free thinkers and invent or become subjugated to the dictates of history.
  • The sculpture is 94 feet long and 15 feet high and invites visitors to walk through it
  • It is said that ‘without interaction with the piece, there is no piece’

    Titan (2004)
    Titan

  • Created by artist Michele Oka Doner (1945)
  • Located near the Prospect House
  • Made from bronze
  • Installed in 2004
  • Collobaration between longtime friends: artist, Michele Oka Donna and model, Micky Wolfson
  • The hollow sponge-like figure evokes both growth and decay
  • The work was donated to Princeton University Art Museum in honor of longtime Princeton benefactor Mickey Wolfson’s 70th birthday

    Atmosphere and Environment (1970)
    atmosphere and the environment

  • Created by artist Louise Nevelson
  • Located adjacent to Firestone Library
  • Made from Core-Ten steel
  • Installed in 1971
  • The sculpture achieves its magic through the play of natural light over its geometric surface
  • Standing at 21-feet tall, it creates a variety of constantly changing visual images as the viewer moves past it.
  • Nelson explained, “The landscape is the atmosphere that fills the spaces of the steel environment; the two together are the sculpture.”
  • Nevelson’s was nearly 70 years old when she undertook the Princeton commission, her first monumental outdoor sculpture in Cor-Ten steel.

    Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
    Circle of Heads

  • Created by artist Ai Weiwei
  • Located at Scudder Plaza
  • Made from bronze
  • Installed from 2012 to 2016
  • Inspired by sculptures that once adorned the fountain clock at Yuanming Yuan, representing signs of the zodiac.
  • Each of the 12 sculpture stands approximately 10 feet high and weighs 800 pounds
  • It is significant that the sculptures are placed alongside the Scudder Plaza reflecting pool, as the original Zodiacs were in front of the fountain of the imperial palace.

    Fountain of Freedom (1966)
    Fountain of Freedom

  • Created by artist James Fitzgerald (1910-1973)
  • Located at Scudder Plaza
  • Made from bronze
  • Installed in 1966
  • Standing at 23-feet high and weighing 6 tons, the fountain is one of the largest cast bronze sculptures in the United States.
  • Named to symbolize Woodrow Wilson’s vision of lasting world peace
  • The grooves, channels, and spires are meant to symbolize Woodrow Wilson’s aspirations and frustrations.
  • It was once referred “Jersey Shore West” back when visitors used to play and wade in the water
  • 700 gallons of water are recirculated through the fountain each minute