As MIT’s contemporary art museum, the List Center’s history is deeply connected to the Institute’s long standing committment to supporting the arts and humanities on campus. The establishment of the Hayden Gallery in 1950 brought numerous artists into contact with the MIT community through robust and diverse exhibitions and artist residencies, setting the stage for the formal creation of the List Center in 1985. Since then, the List has continued to build on this legacy. The following timeline provides a succinct look at some of these milestones. In addition to this timeline, we encourage you to explore our exhibitions archive which dates back to 1985 for a further look at artists who’ve exhibited at the Center.
The Hayden Gallery opens and becomes the first contemporary visual arts center on MIT’s campus. In 1985 the gallery was formally renamed and established as the List Visual Arts Center.
Standard Oil donates twenty-six works of art to MIT. This initial gift forms the cornerstone of the Permanent Collection.
Catherine (Kay) N. Stratton co-founds the Friends of the Arts (which evolved into the Art Committee in 1960).
The Longview Foundation provides seed funding to establish MIT’s Permanent Art Collection.
MIT’s first public sculpture, Dimitri Hadzi’s Elmo was commissioned (funded by Samuel Marx, class of 1907).
Alexander Calder’s La Grande Voile (The Great Sail) is sited on MIT’s campus. A gift of Eugene and Margaret McDermott, Calder’s commission further establishes a foundation for the development of the Institute’s campus wide public art collection.
Kay Stratton donates a selection of artwork which sets the stage for what later becomes the Student Lending Art Collection.
MIT establishes a percent-for-art program. Today, this program administered by the List Visual Arts Center allocates up to $500,000 to commission art for each new major renovation or campus building construction project.
With the support of MIT President Jerome Wiesner (1971-1980), The MIT Art Committee formally becomes the MIT Council for the Arts. An advisory committee is named to investigate the possibilities for the establishment of a new arts and media building.
MIT President Jerome Wiesner, along with Albert (Abe) and Vera List begin discussing the funding of a world-class gallery at MIT. I. M. Pei (Class of 1940), is chosen to work on the commission.
The List Student Loan Program was established in 1977 with a gift of 87 framed prints and posters from the Albert and Vera List Collection. The Catherine N. Stratton Collection of Graphic Art was established in tribute to Mrs. Julius Stratton, wife of MIT’s 11th president, for her work in developing and enriching the visual arts activities at MIT.
The MIT Committee on the Visual Arts sponsors an exhibition and loan program of framed posters and prints from the List Student Loan Program and the Catherine N. Stratton Collection of Graphic Art. More than 100-posters and prints are made available for loan to full-time registered MIT students.
I. M. Pei proposes designing one building complex for arts and media-based research. The plan for the future gallery is combined with President Wiesner and Nicholas Negroponte’s fledgling plan to create what John de Monchaux, Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, coined as the Media Lab.
Establishment of the MIT List Visual Arts Center
Kathy Halbreich (1976-1986) director of the Hayden Gallery of Contemporary Art works with I. M. Pei to use Percent for Art Funds to commission Scott Burton, Richard Fleischner, and Kenneth Noland to create new work for the Wiesner Building Project. Pei collaborated with Burton on the curving concrete benches on the plaza level of the atrium, (Settee, Bench, and Balustrade) and (Granite Bench), 1985; with Fleischner on the plaza surrounding the building, (Upper Courtyard), 1985; and with Noland on the surface of both the interior and exterior of the building( Here-There), 1985.
In October 1985, the Wiesner Building was formally dedicated and opened to the MIT community and public. Named after Jerome Wiesner and his wife Layla, the Wiesner Building was originally the home to the List Visual Arts Center, and the Media Lab.
Kathy Halbreich is officially named as first Director of the List Visual Arts Center, having previously programmed exhibitions and artist residency projects for the Hayden Gallery. Halbreich later went on to serve as director of the Walker Art Center, 1991; associate director at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), 2008; and is now currently executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
Katy Kline (1987-1998) becomes second Director.
The Max Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art is established in memory of Max Wasserman (MIT Class of 1935), a founding member of the Council of the Arts at MIT. This public forum, a biannual symposium on critical issues in contemporary art and culture features renowned artists, academics, researchers, and arts professionals.
The American Alliance of Museums accredited the List in 1993 and then again in 2004, and 2016.
Jane Farver (1999-2011) becomes third Director.
The List presents Ann Hamilton: Myein at the United States Pavilion, 48th Venice Biennale. The exhibition was organized by former List Director Katy Kline and former List curator Helaine Posner.
The List Center presented Fred Wilson: Speak of Me as I Am at the United States Pavilion for the 50th Venice Biennale. The exhibition was curated by Kathy Goncharov.
The List Center presented Paul Pfeiffer at the 2003 Cairo Biennale and the Melina Mecouri Center in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
From 2003-2010, as MIT’s campus grew, the List Center administered numerous percent-for-art projects commissioning new work by artists such as Dan Graham, Cai Guo-Qiang, Anish Kapoor, Sol LeWitt, Matthew Ritchie, Sarah Sze, and Lawrence Weiner.
In conjunction with MIT’s Centennial the List Center presented Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom; Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect; Hans Haacke 1967; and Otto Piene: Lichtballett. This series of exhibitions featured artists who had a historic affiliation with MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies.
Paul Ha becomes fourth Director.
An online audio guide is developed to provide commentary by artists, architects, scholars, and curators, focusing on 60+ works of art and architecture located throughout the Institute’s campus.
The List Projects exhibition series is launched to present a focused look at the work of emerging artists. Since its inception this initiative has featured solo exhibitions by artists Gabriel Abrantes, Farah Al Qasimi, Andrea Crespo, Rami George, Delia Gonzalez, Gordon Hall, Ann Hirsch, Ken Okishi, Kambui Olujimi, and Adam Pendleton, among many others.
The MIT List Visual Arts Center presents Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word at the United States Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale. The exhibition was curated by List Center Director Paul Ha, commissioner for the project; and Ute Meta Bauer, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore; Founding Director of the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) at MIT.
The List Center collaborates with the Boston Greenway Conservancy to commission Lawrence Weiner to create a public art mural project for downtown Boston.
A contemporary art tour guide program led by MIT students is inaugurated. The Student Guide program provides campus tours of MIT’s public art collection to engage the MIT community and public with art, architecture, and evirons.
MIT’s Student Lending Art Program Collection is made available online.
The List Center commissions and completes two new percent-for art commissions by Olafur Eliasson and Nick Mauss. Eliasson’s Northwest Passage is situated on the ceiling of the breezeway of Building 12, MIT.nano. Nick Mauss’ Dispersed Events, a suite of seven ceramic tile murals of varying scales, is installed throughout the atria and stairways of I.M. Pei’s Landau Chemical Engineering Building (1976).
Alicja Kwade is commissioned to create Against the Run, a freestanding clock with a restrained modern design that tells the correct time—but does so in a way that confounds expectations. The work is currently sited on a patch of lawn adjacent to Richard Fleischner’s Upper Courtyard. The sculpture was commissioned through MIT’s percent-for-art program and was on view as part of Alicja Kwade’s exhibition In Between Glances (October 18, 2019 – January 5, 2020).