Announcing New Public Art On Campus

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

Jeffrey Gibson, I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU, 2020Jeffrey Gibson, I DON’T WANT TO SEE MYSELF WITHOUT YOU, 2020. Digital rendering of work in progress.


Year: 2020
Medium: Acrylic on canvas, glass beads, and artificial sinew inset into wood frame (Image shows digital rendering of work in progress)
Location: Vassar Street Residence Hall (W46)

Credit: Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds

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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.

 Matt Johnson, Untitled (Swan), 2016 Matt Johnson, Untitled (Swan), 2016 Bent train track, 120 x 138 ½ x 34 ¾ inches (305 x 352 x 88 cm), Anonymous Gift

Matt Johnson, Untitled (Swan)

Year: 2016
Size: 120 x 138 ½ x 34 ¾ inches
(305 x 352 x 88 cm)
Medium: Bent train track
Location: Vassar Street Residence Hall (W46) Plaza 

Credit: Anonymous Gift

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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. 

Robert Engman, Untitled, 1968 Aluminum with acrylic paint 58 x 81 x 53 in. Robert Engman, Untitled, 1968 Aluminum with acrylic paint 58 x 81 x 53 in.

Robert Engman, Untitled

Year: 1968
Medium: Aluminum with acrylic paint
Location: Vassar Street Residence Hall (W46)
Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Netsch 

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Robert Engman’s Untitled (1968), a work from the List Visual Arts Center’s permanent collection will be installed in the open space outside of the Vassar Dormitory’s Head of House and Associate Head of House apartments. This work resembling a Möbius strip was previously sited at MIT’s Baker Library, where it was admired by many. The head and associated head of house, along with a small group from facilities, selected this work for Vassar Dormitory. 

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

Agnieszka Kurant, The End of Signature

Year: 2020-21
Medium: Large-scale animated LED sculptures 
Location: Kendall Square
Credit: Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds

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Agnieszka Kurant, The End of Signature, 2020-21Agnieszka Kurant, The End of Signature, 2020-21, Rendering of sculptural commission in progress

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.

Alicja Kwade, Against The Run

Year: 2019
Medium: Clock sculpture
Location: Currently sited on the Fleischner Upper Courtyard 
Credit: Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds

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Alicja Kwade, "Against the Run," 2019; MIT Collection, Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art fundsAlicja Kwade, “Against the Run,” 2019; MIT Collection, Commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art funds

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 Sculpture by Jean Robert Ipoustéguy Finds a New Home at MIT’s Endicott House

Jean Robert Ipoustéguy, Cénotaphe, 1957Jean Robert Ipoustéguy, Cénotaphe, 1957

Jean Robert Ipoustéguy, Cénotaphe

Year: 1957
Medium: Steel
Credit: Gift of Mr. L. A. Kolker, Scarsdale, New York
Location: Endicott House

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MIT’s Endicott House will now serve as the site for the relocation of Cénotaphe (1957), a sculpture by Jean Robert Ipoustéguy. One of many works in the List Center’s public art collection, this piece was recently conserved and in storage for a number of years. Staff at the Endicott House were pleased to borrow this work for their grounds where it will be enjoyed by visitors as a site of relaxation and reflection. Cénotaphe represents the artist’s earlier work, before his shift to various representations of the human form. Its geometric, planar quality reflects Ipoustéguy’s affinity for open and penetrable sculptural spaces. A cenotaph is an empty grave, a funerary memorial to a person whose remains are elsewhere. Austere and calm, Cénotaphe evokes its subject as a meditative, elegiac metaphor.

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