Loeb was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. Vassar was the first college or university in the country to include an art museum as part of its original plan. The current 36,000 square foot facility was designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building’s primary donor Frances Lehman Loeb, a member of the Class of 1928.
The Loeb’s collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 22,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, textiles, and glass and ceramic wares. Teaching students and working as an important tangible complement to the curriculum is the main focus of the collection. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the College’s inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American twentieth century painters.
The design of the galleries and the storage facilities are geared to ease of presentation for groups of faculty and students. This is particularly true of the Project Gallery where faculty can request works of art from storage at short notice and have them installed for class use. Often multiple classes from different disciplines present work in this space thereby offering unexpected but revealing comparisons among different cultures and eras. While the Department of Art is the Lehman Loeb Art Center’s primary client, classes from other disciplines as diverse as Drama and Film, Botany, Classics, and Hispanic Studies make regular use of the broad collections.
Designed by Cesar Pelli and opened to the public in November 1993, the Loeb is a distinguished addition to a campus internationally known for its fine buildings.
Called “a symphony of architecture” by the New York Times, the Loeb comprises a new museum, home to one of the finest teaching collections in the nation, as well as the renovated collegiate-gothic building, Taylor-Van Ingen Hall, home of the art department and the art library. The entrance to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, class of 1931, Entrance Pavilion, a glass hexagon visible from just inside the College’s main gate. A symbol of the art center, the pavilion is connected to Taylor-Van Ingen Hall by a buttress screen, creating a forecourt for the complex. The pavilion and glass-walled passageway leading to the exhibition areas offer views of the campus. The Hildegarde Krause Baker, class of 1911, Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1993 as an integral part of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, was redesigned in 2012 by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. into a striking and lush environment in which to appreciate works from Vassar’s stellar collection of twentieth-century sculpture.