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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

campus student life

At the Eskenazi Museum, everything’s art, including the building itself


What do the Louvre pyramid, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and IU’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art have in common?  

They were all designed by the same person: I. M. Pei, a 20th century Chinese-American architect. Unlike the Louvre or the National Gallery, however, the Eskenazi Museum of Art is completely free and ready-to-visit in the heart of IU’s campus. 

IU’s Fine Arts Building opened its collection of art, gathered by Herman B Wells, in 1962. As the collection grew, it became clear the campus needed a museum. Pei’s design was unveiled in 1982, and serves as a sibling to his Louvre and National Gallery designs. It’s famously rumored to have no right angles, which isn’t quite true. The building is actually made of triangles, with some right angles along floors and on windows, but the design uses “no 90-degree angles except where necessary,” according to Indiana University. 

The museum claims its galleries represent “nearly every art-making culture in the world.” Between three floors, cultural collections include “ancient” art with objects dating back to 30,000 BCE; Asian art; African, Oceanian and Indigenous art; and European and American art. There are also collections for prints, drawings, photographs and for contemporary art. 

If that isn’t enough, the museum also offers rotating featured exhibitions. Past exhibits have ranged from photography, such as September 2023’s “Measuring Time: The Photographs of Jeffrey A. Wolin,” historical use of different mediums, such as August 2023’s “Landscape and Abstraction in Watercolor, 1780–1980” or even art of historical significance, such as September 2022’s “The Degenerate Art Exhibition: 85 Years Later.” 

In addition to the art, the museum also has a gift shop and cafe. Located on the second floor (up those treacherous not-right angle staircases) is the Luzetta and Del Newkirk Café and Gift Shop. The cafe features local Brown County Coffee, and the gift shop offers Eskenazi collection-inspired souvenirs. You can sip your coffee inside the sunny atrium or, if it’s warm, outside on the museum’s patio. 

The Eskenazi Museum boasts over 45,000 objects in its collection and is one of the largest art holdings of any American university art museum. Still, it’s focused on connecting with visitors.  

Guided tours are often offered, as well as other community events such as movie screenings and discussion, drawing and painting workshops and sketching tours. Check the calendar online for what’s coming up! There are also opportunities for field trips and other school-age activities.

This article is part of the Source Visitor’s Guide, an IDS special publication. 

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