The mission of The New School Art Collection, in recognition of its historic commitment to art as a vehicle for sociopolitical change, is to advance the importance of art as an agent for personal and collective transformation. As a curricular resource for all areas of study, the collection conserves, interprets, and presents works of art to the students, faculty, and greater community. New acquisitions support the vision of the university as an environment for innovative thinking and artistic experimentation.
The university's legacy of supporting the freedom of artistic expression began in 1931 with the commissioning of two historically significant mural cycles: José Clemente Orozco's A Call for Revolution and Universal Brotherhood and Thomas Hart Benton's epic America Today. Over the years, the university has hosted a roster of accomplished artists, writers, dancers, designers, historians, social scientists, and philosophers, creating a flourishing laboratory for experimentation and innovation. As an institution that embraced such diverse figures as poet Robert Frost, anthropologist Margaret Mead, art historian Meyer Schapiro, and composer/conceptual artist John Cage, The New School has always stood at the forefront of self-discovery and visionary social, intellectual, and aesthetic experimentation.
The New School Art Collection was established in 1960 with a grant from the Albert A. List Foundation. Albert List and his wife Vera, a life trustee, were dedicated patrons of the arts and of The New School. In addition to their generous donation of art, the Lists endowed the university with a commitment to art, both as a means of intellectual and aesthetic experimentation and as an agent in addressing the salient social and political issues of our time. The collection, now grown to approximately 2,000 postwar and contemporary works of art, includes examples in almost all media by some of the most innovative and creative artists of our time. Installed throughout the university campus and transforming the public spaces into lively forums for examining contemporary art, the collection offers students and faculty a rare opportunity to engage with art on a daily basis, making it a distinctive component of their educational experience. The collection has continued its tradition of incorporating site-specific works into its public spaces. In addition to commissioned works by artists such as Sol LeWitt, Dave Muller, Martin Puryear, Brian Tolle, and Kara Walker, five recent site-specific commissions by Agnes Denes, Andrea Geyer, Alfredo Jaar, Glenn Ligon, and Rita McBride have been installed in the University Center at 63 Fifth Avenue.