Permanent Collection


Frank Stella's Loohooloo. Photo by George Bouret 


Take a virtual tour of the artwork here.

The first permanently installed works of art at MIT were the murals painted by Edwin H. Blashfield for the Walker Memorial in 1923–30, but MIT did not begin actively collecting and exhibiting art until decades later. In 1951 MIT President James Killian with Director of Libraries John Burchard provided the impetus for a program for the visual arts on campus. President Killian described his position towards the arts as follows:


The great universities have long sought to achieve an environment where distinguished art, architecture, and landscaping are not just embellishments or luxuries, but are an essential and natural part of the process of education and growth. Just as students seek out the foremost in science and engineering they should have the opportunity to engage and come to understand the best in the arts.


In 1951, the MIT Permanent Collection was formally inaugurated, with a gift of 26 paintings and drawings from the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. With no gallery for the permanent display of artworks on campus, the decision was made to exhibit the works throughout the campus, setting the precedent for the way the Permanent Collection is displayed today.

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