The crown jewels of UCSD

In 20 years, the Stuart Art Collection has lived among UCSD students, grown with each campus addition to campus, inspired discussion and provoked experiences, and used the 1,200-acre UCSD campus as its canvas.

Sun God
Niki de Saint Phalle (1983)

“”It is unique,”” said Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego curator Toby Kamps. “”The pieces are an ongoing negotiation with the landscape of the campus.””

The Stuart Collection was first commissioned in 1981, when the Stuart Foundation was formed to bring “”provocative, cutting-edge, contemporary art thinking”” to UCSD, according to Stuart Collection Director Mary Beebe.

“”This body is definitely not to decorate the campus in any way,”” she said. “”It is to promote experiences as the pieces exist in the campus atmosphere.””

Two Running Violet V Forms
Robert Irwin (1983)

From the collection’s first commission, Nikki de Saint Phalle’s “”Sun God,”” to its latest, “”Read/Write/Think/DrE-am”” by John Baldessari, each piece is designed for a specific location at UCSD. Each artist offers his voice in his cultural, intellectual and artistic enrichment of campus life through public sculptures.

“”A lot of the pieces speak for themselves,”” Beebe said. “”You do not have to know anything about art history to understand the piece is communicating with you, even though it may not announce itself as art.””

The Stuart Foundation Advisory Committee contacts the artists and works with them to choose a location to place their art. Each piece uses the campus space to create a relationship with itself and the environment.

For many of the artists, the Stuart Collection, which prides itself as public art, is their first experience with public art. Some were may be known internationally in other artistic fields prior to their addition to the collection.

Patrick Ledden, a member of the Stuart Foundation and the provost of John Muir College, has been involved with the collection since he worked with James Stuart DiSilva, the man who founded the organization.

Ledden says that the collection is interesting because it is so visible. The man-made, indigenous nature of art is employed in it.

“”Unlike any other collection, the Stuart Collection really takes advantage of physical space,”” he said. “”We bring the artists to the campus. We walk around with them. They decide which part of UCSD that they want to interact with.””

As a member of the foundation, Ledden finds a personal meaning in the collection, which passing students may not have.

“”I get to see these pieces from an artistic and historical perspective because I have seen their commission and proposal,”” Ledden said. “”The Stuart Collection really becomes an archive to the campus and to what is the best work of the time in monument sculpture.””

Beebe agrees that the Stuart Collection lends itself to history because different trends in art lead to different nuances in the works. She mentions pieces such as Robert Irwin’s “”Two Running Violet V Forms”” and Alexis Smith’s “”Snake Path”” as dynamic elements of the bustling campus life.

“”The mood can change so much on some of them that they become a living, breathing part of the campus,”” Beebe said.

Ledden agrees.

“”All over campus, the artists allow us to live with them,”” he said. “”They give us an artist’s sensibility and energy as we go about our daily lives.””

Ledden and Beebe mentioned that the collection stands alone in its geographical use, as well as in its interaction between each artwork and the viewer.

“”The work provokes an intentional reaction, giving us an opportunity to participate in them,”” Ledden said. “”Other campuses have artworks that interact with each other displayed in a field. Here, all of our works are designed to interact with the environment and the people.””

In regards to student funding, Beebe said, “”We don’t use any student funds. All the funding comes from the Friends of the Stuart Collection group and other fundraisers.””

The collection becomes a provocative, cutting-edge archive subject to the test of time, but maintained to cultivate the overall experience of the art.

Each year, the collection undergoes preservation as repairs are assessed. According to Beebe, the repairs cost about $30,000, but the foundation must allocate for special projects. “”Sun God”” was repainted in 1999 at a cost of $22,000. When a bulb burns out in Bruce Nauman’s “”Vices and Virtues,”” it is replaced immediately.

“”The works really are not themselves if we don’t keep them up,”” Beebe said.

She went on to say that a special renovation was conducted for the 20th anniversary celebration.

The celebration will take place Nov. 3, when the foundation will present “”Landmarks,”” a book documenting 20 years of the Stuart Collection. The day will begin with a symposium of artists and critics followed by tours of the collection. It will end with the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s presentation of the Stuart Collection and a musical celebration. Terry Allen’s Panhandle Mystery Band will provide the music. Allen created “”Trees,”” a work found in the eucalyptus grove and outside the library.

“”The Foundation wants people to understand the collection. Like people, you have to get to know them,”” Beebe said. “”It is important to have the information and know who and what they are to UCSD and contemporary art.””

Stuart Collection Authors

JK ‹ Jessica Kruskamp

HH ‹ Hana Hsu

SB ‹ Sabrina Morris

MG ‹ Marissa Guiterrez

CVJ ‹ Claire J. Vannette

CT ‹ Charlie Tran

KH ‹ Keely Hyslop

JL ‹ Joseph Lee

ME ‹ Mara Evans

Stuart Collection Photographers

Sun God, Standing ‹ Lyon Liew

Two Running Violet V Forms, READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM ‹ Tyler Huff

La Jolla Vista View, La Jolla Project ‹ Rebecca Drexler

Red Shoe, Trees ‹ Sam Scoufos

Green Table ‹ Colin Young-Wolff

Snake Path ‹ Anna MacMurdo

Vices and Virtues ‹ Scott Thomas

UNDA ‹ Dave Ries

Something Pacific ‹ Chris Padfield

Terrace ‹ Leo Der Stepanians

Untitled ‹ Isaac Sullivan

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