I enjoyed a night at the museum last week, stopping off at the Princeton University Art Museum for one of its Thursday evening events. The featured exhibit was “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography,” which was the subject of an article in last week’s U.S. 1. Since the writer of the story, Aubrey Kauffman, and the editor of the story, U.S. 1’s Dan Aubrey (no relation to Kauffman), were both planning to show up, I figured I would try to make it as well.
I arrived to catch the tail end of the presentation by the museum’s new curator of photography, Katherine Bussard. McCormick 101, the lecture hall, was SRO as Bussard fielded a steady flow of questions from the audience. When you are collecting photographs, how do you guard against bootlegged prints, one person asked. That prompted another question in my head: When the photograph is digital, how do you know how many “negatives” are floating around in cyberspace?
Soon the crowd at the lecture hall broke up and headed for the exhibition room, for wine and hors d’oeuvres and a dazzling array of artful photography, ranging from the real to surreal to abstract. I ran into a neighbor of mine, who complimented me on Dan Aubrey’s July 3 article about the Statue of Liberty. She had been surprised to learn that the sculpture in front of the former Borough Hall on Monument Drive, “Le Petit Vintner,” was created by the French sculptor who designed Lady Liberty, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.
At that science and technology writer Edward Tenner, who had dropped into our group, noted that the sculpture on Monument Drive with an even more remarkable story was the Princeton Battle Monument itself, by Frederick William MacMonnies. Before he could tell us exactly what that story was an hors d’oeuvres tray passed by — we all darted for a bite or two.
That story, if told, could have been my takeaway for the evening, but instead it turned out to be something far more tangible: the informative Princeton University Art Museum Summer 2013 Magazine that is available for free in the lobby — perfect to grab on your way out.
For the past few nights, the magazine has been summer reading for me — a profile of the photography curator, Katherine Bussard, an overview of the exhibit I had just seen, some insight into the museum staff that keeps track of the 80,000-piece collection, and a letter from the museum’s director, James Christen Steward, that some sort of physical expansion seems on the horizon. “New fields of endeavor,” Steward writes, “demand new objects for use in their research and teaching.”
In addition, he notes, the Princeton Art Museum “remains fundamentally committed to the art of our own time, too, and recognizes that the best of that art — the work we feel will most compellingly reflect our era — must make its way into our collections before market factors make that a near impossibility.” To that, he adds, “we are, after all, a mid-sized museum currently hampered by significant space constraints.”
The museum’s magazine, produced by Curtis R. Scott, Janet Rauscher, Anna Brouwer, and Lehze Flax, reminds me of another valuable print resource in town, “Connections,” the Princeton Public Library’s magazine. A few weeks before my visit to museum, and under far less glamorous circumstances, I was at the library, delivering 150 copies of U.S. 1 newspaper to the rack at the back entrance of the library. From the shelf with all the other free literature available, I grabbed the summer issue of Connections.
It too proved to be a worthwhile takeaway. For whatever reason you showed up in the first place, the magazine, edited by communications director Tim Quinn, gave you dozens of reasons to go back. There’s a nice feature story on the Princeton Student Film & Video Festival, which runs this Wednesday and Thursday, July 17 and 18, at the library. The writer, Amy Hiestand, tracked down two alumni of the now 10-year-old program who are working professionally in the film and video field, Ed Carson, a freelance film editor in New York, and Ben Saltzman, an intern with a Los Angeles video company.
Given that I live in a house with no air conditioning (it’s a long story), I might be tempted to visit the library this Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m. for a discussion with Fordham professor Keri Walsh on James Joyce and Sylvia Beach (who is buried across the street from the library). Or I could walk over on Tuesday, July 23, at 7 p.m. to hear Lily Koppel discuss her book, “The Astronaut Wives Club.” (No relation to the newscaster, she is the author of “The Red Leather Diary” and a New York Times columnist.)
Of course, the library isn’t the only game in town. Flipping through the Art Museum Summer Magazine I see that there will be a yoga session on Thursday, July 25, at 7:30 on the lawn next to the museum. I remind myself that I flunked Art 101 in college (another long story). Yoga 101 might be too much of a stretch for me.
But there’s always Thursday, August 1, and a picnic on the lawn starting at 6:30. It will be followed at 8:30 by a screening of the Ben Stiller movie, “Night at the Museum.” I’ll have to think about that — didn’t I just have a night at the museum?