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Stanford University

Art Focus Lecture Series

Expand your knowledge of art through lectures by renowned professors, curators, art experts, and artists.

The Stanford University campus fosters a dynamic culture that supports high academic and research standards and nurtures well-rounded students—all in a setting that leverages the juxtaposition of the serious and the irreverent. This is also evident in the contrast of the central campus and the open space of the foothills. This presentation explores how Stanford continues to reinvent and translate the original vision of the founders in its planning and architecture. Specifically, this lecture will highlight the transformation of the arts district, and recently completed projects including the Sapp Center for Science Teaching and Learning (‘Old Chem’ renovation), the Denning House, and the Bass Biology Building, as well as provide glimpses of plans in design and construction.
Wednesday, February 6 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40
Registration Form

John L. Wong has led more than 150 projects for Stanford University. For over thirty years, SWA and he have been working with Stanford University to reclaim the 100-year old vison of Leland Stanford and Frederick Law Olmstead through a series of campus improvement projects. Integrating the university’s facility needs with a long-term landscape vision, the projects are recovering the campus’ historic axes, open space patterns, and contrast of formal landscape spaces with natural landscape within the central campus.

John L. Wong joined SWA, a premier landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm, in 1976. He has directed an array of projects from the design and crafting of small gardens to the large-scale planning and design of neighborhoods, towns, and new communities. He has extensive experience in North America, the Middle East, and Asia— particularly in Japan, Korea, and China. Over the past two decades, he has led many campus improvement projects at Stanford University, including the award-winning DAPER Master Plan, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, and the Alumni Center. He and his teams have designed the groundscapes for 12 of the 100 tallest buildings in the world.
Wednesday, February 13 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
Registration Form

Artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Breughel, Henry Fuseli, and William Blake have greatly expanded our visionary imagination by probing unusual psychological undercurrents. Strange or unexpected images occur in their art, whether by comparing the real with the unreal or creating hybrid beings or by possibly examining images rising from their own subconscious or unconscious minds long before psychology was understood as a scientific discipline. Some imagery is apocalyptic and religious, others consider the monstrous or fearful aspects of our imaginary life on the margins of what was known or vaguely understood in their time. This lecture probes their imagery as their visions continue to haunt art history.
Wednesday, February 20 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
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Pictures from high-powered telescopes, such as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, have conditioned us to imagine the cosmos as vividly colored and brilliantly lit, a sublime landscape of stars. Such views balance the need for scientifically valid representations with a desire for aesthetically powerful ones. How might these scientific images come into conversation with artistic representations? This lecture will review the history of 20th and 21st century astronomical images alongside the work of Joseph Cornell, Vija Celmins, Spencer Finch (all in the permanent collection of the Cantor Arts Center or the Anderson Collection), and other artists, in an exploration of how astronomy and art help us understand our place in the cosmos.
Wednesday, February 27 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
Registration Form

This spring, Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture Sequence (2006) returns to the Cantor Art Center. In conjunction with its Stanford reinstallation, this lecture locates the artist and his sculpture within an art historical context. We begin with Serra’s early artistic explorations so we can understand how he arrived at the iconic shaped-steel sculptures for which he is best known. By then comparing his work to that of his peers (past and present), we come to appreciate his innovations as well as canonical importance. Finally, closely examining specific works, including Sequence, we will see the paradox that is at the heart of Serra’s art: outwardly simple and seemingly straightforward, his works, in fact, prompt viewers to ponder universals that define the human experience.
Wednesday, March 6 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
Registration Form

Tina Modotti’s photographs of 1920s Mexico symbolically represent the post-revolutionary period sometimes called the Mexican Renaissance. “Her work flowers perfectly in Mexico and harmonizes with our passion,” said painter Diego Rivera of Modotti’s seamless fusions of politics and art. Modotti’s work resonates with that of Rivera but also that of others in her circle like Frida Kahlo, David Alfaros Siqueiros, and Edward Weston. We will consider Modotti’s photographs in the context of the roiling and hopeful period that was 1920s Mexico. We will also survey Modotti’s life, among the most dramatic of the 20th century, which took her from Italian factory worker to Hollywood starlet to Stalinist operative to humanitarian aid worker in Spain. Most memorably, Modotti created enduring images of, with, and for the Mexican people.
Wednesday, March 13 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
Registration Form

The contemporary art market is infamous for its opacity, and becoming an art collector in San Francisco may seem challenging even for the most avid art lovers. Yet, with the right set of tools and pointers, this journey can be both enjoyable and rewarding in today’s booming market. This lecture will provide attendees with a practical and lively overview of the local art market. We will discuss key players, assess current opportunities, and decode and demystify its business practices. With this foundation in place, novice and seasoned collectors alike will gain fresh insights into the San Francisco art market, allowing them to engage with this evolving local scene in new, fruitful, and exciting ways.
Wednesday, March 20 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 
Registration Form

To every age its art, to every art its freedom.
Formed in 1897, the Viennese Secession of 19 artists and designers who rejected the conservative attitude of the Art Academy in favor of a more modern experimental approach, saw themselves as a regenerative force at the dawn of a new century in Vienna’s Golden Age. Gustav Klimt, influenced by avant-garde movements such as Symbolism and Art Nouveau, became the Secession’s first president. The lecture considers the work of this complicated artist and his colleagues. Klimt’s unique approach to nature in his paintings of elaborately composed sensual nudes, ethereal portraits influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, and society portraits made of brilliantly colored patterns floating in a gilded and jeweled atmosphere, continue to fascinate us, and haunt the modern imagination. Featured in the lecture is the history of Klimt’s famous “Adele Bloch-Bauer: The Woman in Gold.”
Wednesday, March 27 | Cantor Arts Center Auditorium
4:15–6:15 pm | member: $35, non-member: $40 


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Receive special benefits at the Cantor Arts Center and The Anderson Collection at Stanford University with one membership.



For information on making a gift, contact our development office by telephone at 650-723-3482 or fill out our contact form.