Announcing New Public Art On Campus

Matt Johnson's Untitled(Swan) sculpture of a warped bent metal train track is pictured in front of MIT campus buildings.

Matt Johnson, Untitled (Swan), 2016. Bent train track, 120 x 138 ½ x 34 2/4 inches (25.4 x 351.79 x 87.63 cm). Photo by Charles Mayer.

The MIT List Visual Arts Center boasts one of the most active Percent-for-Art programs in the country. Since 1968, MIT’s Public Art Collection has continued to grow with up to $500,000 allocated to a new commission with every major renovation or construction project on campus. The List Center oversees the program, bringing site-specific projects by internationally renowned artists to fruition.

As MIT’s campus continues to grow, we’re delighted to share news about several recent and upcoming commissions coming to public spaces, dorm buildings, and neighboring communities in 2021 and 2022. We’re pleased to announce several new acquisitions, commissions, and conservation efforts in our Public Art Collection with work by Jeffrey Gibson, Matt Johnson, and Agnieszka Kurant.

While we wish we could welcome you all back to campus now, we will have many exciting new additions to look forward to upon our rearrival. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our Public Art Map to learn more about the current collection.

Art for the New Vassar Street Residence Hall


For MIT’s newest undergraduate dormitory Jeffrey Gibson was commissioned to create I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU (2020), a site specific percent-for-art work that will welcome students and visitors with a dizzying and almost holographic painting that spells out the work’s title in hard-edge graphic letters. Surrounding this text, a dense patterning extends from the painting to its beaded frame, and adds to the work’s visual impact. In his multimedia paintings, quilts, sculptural objects, or garments, Jeffrey Gibson often engages geometric abstraction and its place in various art traditions, while also calling upon the practices and materials found in indigenous handcraft.

Colorful acrylic on canvas featuring glass beads with abstract text in the center that read reads I don't want to see myself without you.

Matt Johnson, Untitled (Swan)

Matt Johnson’s sculptures explore the paradox of visual forms through unorthodox and surprising materials. His works are inspired by everyday objects, which often become humorously absurd when the artist frees them of their original functions. Johnson’s Untitled (Swan), debuted in New York on the High Line in 2017 as part of a group exhibition, Wanderlust, which explored themes of walking, journeys, and pilgrimages. Derived from the artist’s doodles in a sketch book, and bent from an original rail track pulled from the High Line, the sculpture’s sinuous shapes and curves contort to create a three-dimensional drawing in space. 

Matt Johnson's Untitled(Swan) sculpture of a warped bent metal train track is pictured in front of MIT campus buildings.

Forthcoming Percent-for-Art Projects for the Kendall Square Initiative

Agnieszka Kurant, The End of Signature

The End of Signature uses artificial intelligence to create two different collective signatures to be realized as large-scale animated LED sculptures that appear to sign and re-sign the facades of two new buildings in Kendall Square. The project is part of the artist’s exploration of how social capital could play a more significant role than financial capital in the twenty-first century. Kurant considers communities, social movements, and societies as super-organisms or collective persons with personality traits. The End of Signature establishes a novel way of visualizing their collective identity through an AI-led aggregation of the signatures of hundreds of people, while also alluding to larger cultural shifts as the individual signature becomes a vestigial convention, often reduced to a touchpad scribble or digital stamp.

Large-scale animated LED sculptures that spell out a signature on the underside of a building overhang

Alicja Kwade, Against The Run

In 2019 Alicja Kwade was commissioned to create Against the Run, a new Percent-for-Art work for MIT’s campus public art collection. This sculptural work, currently sited on Fleischner’s Upper Courtyard next to MIT Medical (Building E-23) is a functioning clock that confounds viewers expectations. The clock face itself rotates counterclockwise, moving in direct opposition to the second hand, which appears to stand still. The minute and hour hands function normally, and the clock indicates the correct time despite simultaneously running in reverse. In this work Kwade challenges our perception of familiar objects and invites us to reimagine time and its visual representation. Against the Run will be relocated to Kendall Square in late 2021.

A black freestanding clock with a restrained modern design