Art on Campus

The Art on Campus program at Washington University is a growing collection of public artworks by nationally and internationally recognized artists. Reflecting the diversity, creativity, and scholarship of the University, these artworks enhance the cultural, intellectual, and visual experience of all who visit as well as those who study and work here. By giving public art a strong presence throughout campus, the program reframes and transforms the environment, provoking consideration of both place and space. Participating artists use a wide variety of media, creating works that range from stand-alone sculptures to architectural interventions that variously engage with the social and physical contexts of their sites. 

Established in 2010, Art on Campus is administered by the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. It is funded by a Washington University policy that sets aside one percent of eligible capital projects and renovations on the Danforth Campus for the purchase and commission of public art. A campus-wide committee guides the program and is charged with identifying locations, selecting artists, and approving proposals. The Kemper Art Museum’s Director and Chief Curator and the University Architect cochair the committee to ensure that the University’s short- and long-term plans for capital projects are incorporated into the planning for art installations and that artworks meet museum standards for aesthetic distinction and historical significance.

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Find out more with the Art on Campus brochure here >> 


Dan Graham's Bisected Circle, 2019
Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden

Bisected Circle by the American artist Dan Graham is a cylindrical structure, twenty-three feet in diameter, made of two-way mirror glass and stainless steel. Commissioned for the Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden, it is part of the artist’s signature series of pavilions that have been exhibited and permanently installed in public spaces across the world since the 1980s. Through openings on opposite sides of the pavilion’s exterior wall, viewers are able to enter a space that is divided asymmetrically by a curved interior wall, which is also made of two-way mirror glass. Blurring distinctions between architecture and sculpture, the structure allows viewers to see themselves, each other, and their surroundings reflected in the semitransparent walls of the pavilion, extending the artist’s investigation into how our awareness of the world is contingent upon our relation to and interaction with others. Much like a funhouse mirror, the myriad composite and anamorphic reflections also offer the opportunity for a mildly disorientating and destabilizing experience of our own individual subjectivity.


Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle's Weather Field No. 2, 2018
Millstone Plaza
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Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle is internationally known for a diverse body of work exploring such issues as identity and representation, science and technology, and nature and the ecological impact of contemporary culture. The artist’s practice engages scientific areas of research, often translating into artistic form specific data taken from climatology and genomic mapping, thereby creating a platform for dialogue about the ways we understand the world through its natural and man-made systems.

Weather Field No. 2 exemplifies this approach. The site-specific commission is composed of forty-nine telescoping stainless steel poles with alternating heights of nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one feet, each supporting a weather vane and anemometer. The tight alignment of the poles in a grid augments the weather instruments’ standard function of gauging wind direction and speed. Their close proximity actually generates a microclimate of turbulence and vortices as individual instruments react to one another—a phenomenon akin to the flocking of birds and schooling of fish. Embedded in a complementary landscape composed of perennial liriope and allium, Weather Field No. 2 may also be seen as a metaphor for the subtle effects we have on each other.


Ayşe Erkmen's Places, 2015
Samuel Cupples Hall II
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Places by Turkish artist Ayşe Erkmen consists of nine large-scale concrete forms covered with mosaic tiles. The forms are arranged in a half circle on the lawn outside of Cupples Hall II; each one consists of multiple surfaces that can be used to sit on, sleep on, lean on, read on, or just to look at. The intent is to make an "aesthetic and functional work" for the site, which experiences significant pedestrian circulation of students, faculty, and visitors to campus. 

Ayse Erkmen's Places


Spencer Finch's East Meets West, 2014
Karl D. Umrath Hall
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Spencer Finch is an internationally recognized painter, photographer, and installation artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. Often referred to as a conceptual landscape painter, Finch plays with atmospheric effects and ephemeral notions such as time in his works to examine the ways in which we perceive the outside world. 

For his site-specific project East Meets West, Finch traveled to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, where he used a colorimeter—a device that measures the average color and temperature of light that exists naturally in a specific place and time—to calculate the color of the light on the oceans. He also made watercolors that reproduce his personal observations of the colors and shapes of waves. Combining the empirical qualities of technology and the subjective nature of painting, Finch created light boxes that produce an aesthetic experience of the fleeting, temporal nature of the observed world. Installed in Umrath Hall, home to a variety of interdisciplinary humanities programs, East Meets West evokes the complexities of humanistic and scientific efforts to comprehend the outside world.

Spencer Finch's East Meets West


Tom Friedman's Swamp Creature Friends, 2016
South 40 Swamp between College Hall and Helen F. Umrath House
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Swamp Creature Friends is a commission by the American artist and Washington University alumnus Tom Friedman. It was created in 2016 in conjunction with the renovation of Helen F. Umrath House in Washington University’s South 40 residential area. Friedman is well known for works that make unconventional use of ordinary materials and that play with notions of perception, logic, and humor, often spurring basic questions such as “what is it?” and “where did it come from?” In turn, these questions initiate an ontological inquiry into our relationship to the objects.

The artwork's title alludes to Creature from the Black Lagoon, while simultaneously paying homage to the historical nickname of the grassy field where it is located. It also recalls similar strategies of past works by the artist, such as Loop from 1995, which Friedman created using all the strands from a box of spaghetti that he cooked and then connected together into one form. Swamp Creature Friends combines the artist’s interest in networked systems with his exploration of the human figure, which stems in part from his history of self-portraiture dating back to the early 1990s when he began making abstract figurative sculptures of himself using various materials, including Styrofoam, wood, and even sugar cubes. The interwoven nature of Swamp Creature Friends combined with its proximity to residence halls can be seen as a metaphor for the network of social relationships that are part of the college experience.

Tom Friedman's Swamp Creature Friends


Katharina Grosse's Untitled, 2016
Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center
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This site-specific installation by the German artist Katharina Grosse was commissioned for the Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, which opened in 2016. Consisting of a dramatic intervention covering the center’s interior entrance wall, the work exemplifies the artist’s signature spray-gun technique and the fusion of painting and architecture for which she is internationally known. As with Grosse’s previous work, such as her 2003 installation in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, the painting transgresses the architectural boundaries of the space, moving over multiple surfaces and onto adjoining walls in a strong diagonal direction. Vibrant primary and secondary colors are densely layered, and the material plasticity of the artist’s chosen medium is emphasized through drips and large areas of overspray, suggesting a sense of dynamic movement and revealing the gestural marks of the artist’s process. Significantly, Grosse leaves one area at the edge of the entrance wall unpainted, exposing the original layer of the architecture and simultaneously allowing the painting to frame itself. Immediately to the left of this unpainted area is a vertical stripe that displaces the diagonal gestures of the composition and reinforces the sense of a frame. As with the artist’s use of the spray gun, this displacement mediates the directness of the painting process and adds a self-reflexive element to the installation.

The sophisticated interplay with the architectural space results in a contextual work that also asserts its own sense of autonomy. To develop her large-scale installations, Grosse draws on a wide range of art historical precedents, including fresco painting, street graffiti, and Abstract Expressionism. Situated within the University’s Athletic Complex, this work’s vibrant and active presence generates an immersive experience that intensifies awareness of both the environment and one’s own body while passing through the multistoried space.

Katharina Grosse's Untitled


Ann Hamilton's O N E E V E R Y O N E · St. Louis, 2015
Hillman Hall
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At the core of the Brown School's programs is a recognition of individual peoples and experiences. Seeing and being seen—representation in language and in image—form the basis of contact, exchange, and expression; they are also the very substance of this project. O N E E V E R Y O N E · St. Louis was developed by Ann Hamilton for Thomas and Jennifer Hillman Hall, in response to and in collaboration with the Brown School. During a pair of weeklong residencies in spring 2015, Hamilton photographed nearly 300 volunteers from the Brown School community and three partner organizations (U.S. Vets, Better Family Life, and the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County). Positioning herself and her camera on one side of a semitransparent membrane, she guided and posed the sitters on the other side using only her voice; each touch of a face, a hand, or a selected research-related object against the membrane is revealed in focus, while the sitter's gesture or body outline is rendered more softly. A selection of 33 of these portraits, curated by Hamilton and translated into porcelain enamel panels, is installed along the curved interior walls of the second and third floors, which bracket the Forum Room and the building's central gathering area.

Video: Ann Hamilton discusses O N E E V E R Y O N E · St. Louis >>

Ann Hamilton's ONEEVERYONE St. Louis


Jaume Plensa's Ainsa I, 2013
Bauer Hall
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Over the past three decades, Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa has established an international reputation for creating public sculptures that are both monumental in scale and emotionally engaging in subject matter. Working with a wide variety of materials, he has returned to and transformed the genre of figurative sculpture at the beginning of the twenty-first century with works that explore the intersection between the human form, language, and technology. With these sculptures, Plensa reconsiders the critical question of what it means to be human today. Departing from the idea of sculptures as self-sufficient and autonomous, he creates work that responds through scale and form to its immediate environment, demanding active engagement on the part of the viewer—not only through seeing but also through embodied experience.

Plensa conceived of Ainsa I as a site-specific project to be located outside the south entrance to the new atrium for Bauer Hall, designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners. Composed of a filigree of stainless steel letters from nine different alphabets, the large-scale seated human figure embodies the diversity that characterizes Olin Business School and the University at large. It also transforms the experience of its site, offering both a new focal point and a transition between human and architectural scale, while calling attention to the essentially communal nature of the building plaza.

Jaume Plensa's Ainsa I

Image credits

Dan Graham (American, b. 1942), Bisected Circle, 2019. Two-way mirror glass and stainless steel, 92 1/2 x 276". Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, 2019. Photo by Joshua White /

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (American, b. Spain, 1961). Weather Field No. 2, 2018. 49 stainless steel poles, weather vanes, and anemometers, 20' 1 7/8" x 13' 9" x 23' 7 1/2" overall. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, 2018.

Ayşe Erkmen (Turkish, b. 1949), Places, 2015. Stainless steel reinforced concrete with glass mosaic tile, dimensions variable. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Samuel Cupples Hall II and Scott Rudolph Hall, 2015.

Spencer Finch (American, b. 1962), East Meets West, 2014. Two light boxes with Fujitrans prints and Plexiglas, 50 x 78 x 4" each. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Karl D. Umrath Hall, 2014.

Tom Friedman (American, b. 1965), Swamp Creature Friends, 2016. Painted steel, 77 x 102 x 23". Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Helen F. Umrath House, 2016.

Katharina Grosse (German, b. 1961), Untitled, 2016. Acrylic paint on wallboard, wood veneer, and steel, 480 x 960 x 67". Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Gary M. Sumers Recreation Center, 2016.

Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956), detail from O N E E V E R Y O N E · St. Louis, 2015. Photomechanical prints in porelain enamel on steel panels, 58 x 45 x 1" each. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Thomas and Jennifer Hillman Hall, 2015.

Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955), Ainsa I, 2013. Stainless steel and limestone, 126 x 84 5/8 x 149 5/8". Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis. University purchase, Art on Campus fund, Olin Business School, 2013. Photo by Stan Strembicki.