The Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art aren't the only places to go to see amazing collections of art. While often overlooked by tourists and locals alike, college and university collections can be very impressive, and in some cases boast hundreds of thousands of works that range from contemporary paintings to carvings by ancient artisans. These collections can be great resources for students in any state, and the general public alike and in many cases rival those of major art museums in their size, scope, and uniqueness. Such university art collections exist all over the world, and we've highlighted just a few of the biggest, best, and most compelling here that will undoubtedly impress any art enthusiast.
Housed in a historic building, the Bowdoin College art collection has grown substantially since the initial donation of works of art by James Bowdoin III in the early 1800s. Today, more than 20,000 works are held in the museum's collections, ranging from ancient sculptures to modern works by artists like Rene Magritte and Jackson Pollock. The collection would be impressive even for a large school, but for a small school like Bowdoin with less than 2,000 students, it's amazing.
The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University stands out among university collections because, unlike many others, it concentrates on modern and contemporary art. The museum displays works from big names in modern art like Picasso, de Kooning, Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Reinhardt, as well as recognizable figures from contemporary art like Matthew Barney, Cindy Sherman, and Kiki Smith. In all, the museum is home to more than 8,000 works and is perhaps one of the best small modern art museums in the world.
The art collections at Cambridge are divided up into three collections, each housed in a different museum. The Fitzwilliam Museum holds everything from Egyptian coffins to works by Renaissance sculptors, and has been hailed as one of the best small museums in Europe. The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is where students and visitors can find works of art from around the world, including a notable collection of Pacific art collected by Captain Cook himself. Finally, there's the Museum of Classical Archaeology, which houses an immense collection of plaster casts of Greek and Roman statues created in the 19th century.
It only makes sense that one of the most prestigious art schools in the world would also boast an impressive array of artwork on campus. Inspiring and educating students are more than 450,000 works by master artists like Durer, Poussin, Gericault, Ingres, and Fragonard. Many works in the collection were completed by the school's prestigious students, including some big names in French art like Jacques-Louis David. The campus itself is a bit of an art museum, too, as it was designed as an open-air encyclopedia by architect Felix Duban and is filled with sculptures and murals.
Harvard is home to one of the largest and most amazing university-owned art collections in the world, consisting of more than 260,000 objects. Among the art collections at Harvard's Fogg, Bush-Reisinger, and Sackler museums are sketches by Toulouse-Latrec, William Blake, Winslow Homer and Renoir, ancient Roman paintings and sculptures, gilded Buddhas, and paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Cezanne. Of course, those museums don't house every work of art at Harvard and countless priceless artifacts from the North, Central, and South America, the Pacific Islands, Africa, Europe, and Asia are on view in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology as well.
The Ashmolean Museum at Oxford is the oldest university museum in the world. It was founded in 1678 to house curiosities and art collected by Elias Ashmole, but has become much more comprehensive in its collections since then. Today, the museum houses one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, majolica pottery, and English silver. There are also extensive collections of Egyptian and Minoan pottery and antiquities from ancient Egypt and Sudan, as well as drawings by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonard, paintings by Picasso and Lorraine, the Parian Marble, the Kish Tablet, and a number of remarkable jewels, rings, and decorative objects.
The RISD museum contains a range of works from all over the world and is currently housing about 86,000 works of art, making it the 20th largest art museum in the United States. Visitors to the museum can marvel at sculptures and paintings from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, or take in more modern works from well-known artists like Tiepolo, Georgia O'Keeffe, Picasso, Monet, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. The museum also displays an impressive array of costumes, textiles, and decorative arts going all the way back to the 14th century.
With 60,000 works of art and artifacts in its collection, the Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers is one of the largest university art museums in the nation. Founded in 1960, Rutgers has amassed an impressive collection of works from Western artists. The museum isn't just notable for the size of its collection, however, but also for the wide range of works it owns, showcasing everything from Russian Nonconformist art to contemporary prints.
The Tokyo University of the Arts' collection is one of Japan's largest, with about 28,000 works in all. Of those works, 22 have been designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. Interestingly, the collection also contains student works, some of which were created by artists who would go on to great fame and international acclaim.
Founded in 1882, this university-owned collection has grown from 4,000 objects to almost 7,000. The heart of the collection, however, is still the English and Dutch works donated by Sir William Holburne, for whom the museum is aptly named. Of course, not everything is old-school at the museum, and visitors will find ample photographs, contemporary art, and rotating exhibitions to keep things interesting.
Germany's University of Bonn is home to the Academic Museum of Antiquities. Founded in 1818, the museum has one of the largest collections of plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures in the world, which were once used to instruct students in art academies. It is one of the few collections of its size anywhere in the world, and an interesting look not only into the history of art but also university instruction. Of course, the museum's collection isn't comprised solely of replicas. In addition to 500 casts, the school also owns more than 2,000 originals from Greece and Rome and 3,000 works from ancient Egypt.
When it comes to collections of anthropological and ethnographic materials, few museums have a collection as big as the University of BC. The Museum of Anthropology on campus is home to more than 38,000 works of art, a large number from the British Columbia's native peoples, and an additional 535,000 archaeological objects. Art objects hail from everywhere in the world and offer students and visitors to the museum a way to better understand a wide range of cultures. Those looking for more modern works can find them at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery on campus. The gallery holds more than 3,250 works of art dating from the eighteenth century to the present and focuses on Canadian art and art history.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is one of the largest university museums in the country and is unique for its extensive archive of films and videos. The school's museum is home to unique collections of multimedia art, 13,000 art objects, and 10,000 films and videos. Notable names among the collections are Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Paul Gauguin and visitors to the museums can get access to the wealth of films through more than 650 public screenings held each year.
UPenn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is one of the most impressive of its kind, featuring nearly 500,000 artifacts and objects from all over the world collected over the museum's 125 year history. There are few other university anthropological collections of art that can rival that at UPenn, as it offers access to unique and beautiful items from Oceania, the Near East, the Mediterranean, Egypt, Babylonia, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Even more impressive, many of objects in the collection were acquired by world renowned art dealers, ethnographers, anthropologists, and explorers.
The Blanton Museum of Art at UT Austin is one of the largest university art museums in the U.S. and the third largest museum in Texas. In all, the museum owns more than 17,000 works of art that encompass a wide range of styles, cultures, and movements. There are paintings by Old Masters like Rubens as well as works by contemporary artists like Mark Rothko, Albert Bierstadt, and Joan Mitchell. Additionally, the museum is home to an impressive collection of Latin American art, much of it contemporary.
The University of Toronto once operated the Royal Ontario Museum, but even with that institution now operating independently, the school maintains an excellent art collection. Most of the collection is housed at the University of Toronto Art Centre and is divided up into three distinct areas. Visitors can explore Early Christian and Byzantine sculptures, bronzeware, furniture, and icons in one section, Greco-Roman stones reliefs and glassware in another, and a wide range of Canadian and international contemporary art in the final.
While a very small school (enrollment is at around 2,200 students), Williams College boasts a pretty impressive art museum on campus. Currently, the museum is home to more than 13,000 works of art, only a small fraction of which are on display at any time. Among those are works by Edward Hopper, Sol LeWitt, and Louise Bourgeois as well as artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Africa, and India.
Yale University is home to a couple of standout university art collections. At the Yale University Art Gallery, visitors will find an immense collection (185,000 works and counting) that is on a par with many major art museums in the U.S. Visitors can take in ancient, medieval, Renaissance artwork from Europe, explore the world through collections from South America, Asia, and Africa, or learn more about European and American modern masters and contemporary artists. The school also holds an amazing collection of art at the Yale Center for British Art, which holds more than 87,000 works of art and rare books, the largest collection of its kind outside of the United Kingdom.