Manetti Shrem Museum of Art Opens at UC Davis

With the grand opening of its Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art to the public this past Sunday, UC Davis has extended an artistic legacy nearly 60 years in the making.

The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, seen from above. Image c/o
The Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, seen from above. Image c/o

Though the art museum is brand-new, UC Davis prides itself on its dedication to developing its arts program. The museum’s website affirmed that it is “committed to the interdisciplinary experimentation that makes UC Davis a leading university. The museum’s dedication to impactful education is evident in every aspect, from programming to architecture.”

But what does that mean? Well, according to the museum’s website, from 1908-1959, the University of California at Davis was the College of Agriculture for UC Berkeley. In 1959, it was separated from its affiliation to Berkeley and made a general campus in the UC system. As the museum’s website explains, founding Art Department chair Roy Nelson ensured that the program would grow by assembling a diverse roster of extremely talented artists on the UC Davis faculty. Today, thanks to their commitment, the website explains that the program has “developed into one of the preeminent M.F.A. programs in the United States” through its first faculty’s work.

That legacy helped to build the university’s collections and led to the completion of The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, called the Manetti Shrem for short. Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, for whom the museum is named, are avid philanthropists who believe that art should be accessible to everyone. Their contributions (along with others’, of course) helped to open the museum and develop some of its key architecture.

Bruce Nauman’s 1965 Cup Merging with Its Saucer is part of the Manetti Shrem’s permanent collection. Image c/o the Manetti Shrem and © 2013 Bruce Nauman/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Grand opening events officially began on Thursday the 10th with a press conference. Events for patrons, faculty, and supporters took throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, and a special party was held Saturday night for current UC Davis students. The museum formally opened to the public on Sunday, November 13, with a ribbon cutting ceremony. An open house and reception will be held Friday, November 18, to welcome “current and retired UC Davis staff to the building.”

While Manetti Shrem Museum’s focus is wide, the collections are strongest in four areas. Highest on the list of things to see are the museum’s collections of Old Master prints, East Asian prints, ceramics, and works by UC Davis faculty and alumni.

An unknown artist’s Burial Jar, from the Thai Ban Chiang Late Period, 2100 B.C.-200 A.D. (a gift of Joan and Alex De Paoli), is part of the museum’s collections. Image c/o the Manetti Shrem.

If you’re in the Davis area, make the Manetti Shrem a new stop on your list of art museums to visit. The museum is free to all, but you’ll need to purchase a parking permit (more details available on the website). So stop by. Art has a tendency to speak in the darkest, most insane of times–you owe it to yourself this month.

Perhaps Roy De Forest’s catalogue entry written for the 1967 Masters of Art exhibition at UC Davis (as listed on their website) sums up best why accessibility to art is now more important than ever before, and captures the spirit behind founding the museum–“In a time of social disruption, scientific rationalization, and political instability, the creation of art is an act of dangerous faith.”

Here’s to hoping that UC Davis keeps that radical spirit alive.

Find out more about the Manetti Shrem Museum at its website.

What do we do here at the Art Docent Program? Find out more about our program here!

Want more fun art news? Check out our past blog posts for more.

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