Keep your eyes open for the October issue of The Blue & White, coming soon to campus. Until then, Bwog will honor our heritage/amorous affair with our mother magazine by posting highlights of the upcoming issue online. Among the treats to look forward to: Knickerbocker Motorsports: a surprisingly gripping history, an examination of Columbia’s updated sexual assault policy, and the festive search for magic on campus. Here, senior editor Sam Schube reveals how professors decorate their snazzy offices.
A headless kouros welcomes visitors to the Media Center at the Department of Art History and Archeology. Poking around the space reveals a large African mask, crafted mostly from straw, and an original Piranesi print. The Department is luxuriously appointed, as might be expected. But in a city of owners, the Department remains a renter—the pieces are all on loan from Avery Library’s Art Properties collection.
As it turns out, any old professor can outfit his or her digs with Columbia’s finest paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures. Interested parties contact Carole Ann Fabian, Avery’s director and presently the acting curator for Art Properties, with a request for art. Fabian then dispatches the office’s more technically-minded for a security assessment of the space in question; certain spaces are hospitable to durable sculptures (think swinging backpacks), and others are better-lit for paintings. Then, Fabian schedules an interview: a “holistic approach to assigning art to a person,” she says. They’ll talk about the professor’s field of study, interests, and artistic tastes—they really do care about finding pieces a happy, thematically appropriate home. Fabian then invites the art-seeker to Avery’s storage space, where he or she can choose from a number of preselected viable works.
After the piece is settled upon, the two parties sign an official loan contract, transferring responsibility for any damage or loss onto the professor, and the work is soon hauled onto its new wall, podium, or desk. Sometimes those swinging backpacks take a toll and an unlucky professor discovers a steep bill for a work’s conservation, repair, or replacement.
Artwork is rarely lost, though they’re occasionally “lost;” Fabian carefully mentions that crimes are prosecuted with the all the bumbling force of Public Safety—also, the NYPD. Typically, the paintings stay where they are, and “culturally enrich life at the University,” from their various offices and seminar rooms, as Fabian puts it.
She couldn’t divulge what PrezBo’s got hanging above his bed—but we imagine he gets his pick of the collection.