Princeton University’s campus art collection features over 60 works scattered around the residential colleges, academic buildings, and graduate college housing. As with most aspects of Princeton, this collection has a strange fixation on brainpower / symbolism of the head. Here are three pieces that reinterpret this central body part.
Head of a Woman
Executed by Carl Nesjar (1971), designed by Pablo Picasso (1962)
Across the street from McCarter Theater
Pablo Picasso designed a miniature model of this cast concrete, granite, and quartzite sculpture in 1962. After meeting with Picasso in 1969 and receiving his approval, Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar began building the full-size sculpture on-site. The geometric, segmented Head of a Woman provides a foil to Picasso’s other pieces of the same name. For example, Picasso’s bronze Head of a Woman (on display at the Met) uses curvier, rounder features and looks a lot more like an anatomically correct human. The sculpture at Princeton, with its exposed rock colors and shallow texturing, stands in stark contrast to I.M. Pei’s minimalist Spelman apartments.
Horse-Head Conference Room
Frank Gehry, installed in 2002
Renowned contemporary architect Frank Gehry designed the Horse-Head Conference Room as part of a project for Peter B. Lewis, whose $101 million gift helps fund the Lewis Center for the Arts. The room’s expressive shape marks a formative period in Gehry’s experimental architecture, and the fluidity of Horse-Head Conference Room has parallels to Gehry’s later designs for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao. The Horse-Head Conference Room currently stands in Icahn Laboratory.
Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads
Ai Weiwei, installed in 2012
In front of the Woodrow Wilson School
The bronze version of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads is making a stop in front of the Woodrow Wilson School until August 2017, as part of the series’ world tour. The piece represents the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and taps into a tense history of repatriation, elitism, and cultural exchange. Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads draws inspiration from a fountain depicting zodiac animal heads in Yuanming Yuan, a center of imperial gardens and palaces in Beijing. The original zodiac heads were commissioned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century, designed by European Jesuits, and then pillaged by French and British troops in 1860. Weiwei’s interpretation of the heads is seen as a statement on the democratization of art.