The Chazen Museum of Art shows and collects works that support the studies, teaching, and research of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The museum consists of two buildings, the Elvehjem Building and the new Chazen Museum of Art Building, collectively offering a total 176,000 square feet of space. The majority of the museum’s public space is dedicated to exhibiting the permanent collection. The Elvehjem Building’s third-floor gallery offers visitors a look at ancient art in addition to European and American art through the 20th century. The new building houses the Asian and African collections as well as European and American modern and contemporary art of the 20th and 21st century. Specialty sub-collections are found throughout both buildings and include American and British ceramics, contemporary Japanese ceramics, Chinese export porcelain, Native American baskets, glass and medallic art.



The European and American paintings collection spans the 1300s through the present. The oldest painting in the collection is The Mourning Madonna by Andrea Vanni. Notable works include Orpheus Greeting the Dawn by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and The Schoolboy by Albert Gleizes, which was the first cubist painting in the collection. Sculpture at the museum spans ancient to present time, from Africa and Asia to Europe and the Americas. The oldest piece is a relief from Egypt’s Old Kingdom. Newer works include sculptures by Alexander Calder and Raymond Duchamp-Villon. Drawings, watercolors, and prints represent the 1400s through present day. There is a photography collection as well as a collection of applied and decorative arts. Notable collections from private donors (on which the museum solely relies) include the Joseph E Davies Collection of 89 paintings representing life and the ideals of Soviet socialism, donated to the museum in 1937. The Hollaender Collection consists of paintings, works on paper, and sculpture from the 1950s through the 1970s, from the Americas and Europe. The E.B. Van Vleck Collection of Japanese Prints showcases 4,000 Japanese woodblock prints, previously owned by Frank Lloyd Wright.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum is home to the Kohler Art Library and the university’s Department of Art History. A prints study room and an objects study room are available by appointment for the special viewing of objects in the new building. The second floors of both buildings are reserved for temporary installations and events.

History: The Chazen Museum of Art first opened in 1970 as the Elvehjem Art Center. At the time, the museum housed the 1,600 paintings and works on paper that the university had been acquiring since 1885. Today, the collection has grown to over 20,000 works of art spanning cultures, media, and time.

The Conrad A. Elvehjem building opened in 1970. The 90,000-square-foot building was designed by Chicago-based architect Harry Weese, who played an important role in 20th-century modernism. In October of 2011, an 86,000-square-foot expansion was added. This newer building was designed by the Boston architectural firm Machado and Silvetti Associates. The two buildings are joined by way of a third-floor bridge, itself a gallery, which unifies the two buildings aesthetically and metaphorically.

Ongoing Programs and Education: In line with the university’s mission of public service, the museum strives to offer educational programming for children, students, and adults. Programs for the general public include mini-courses. These fee-based courses are taught by museum curators over a 3-week period and emphasize direct, hands-on examination of art in the permanent collection. Drop-in guided docent tours of the permanent collections are available twice weekly. Guests may reserve these and check the schedule by calling the museum ahead of time. Complementary educational programming highlights each of the museum’s temporary exhibits. These programs include artists’ talks, docent tours, films, workshops, and family activities.

Past and Future Exhibits: The Chazen museum hosts up to 12 temporary exhibits each year. Temporary exhibits are drawn from the museum’s own permanent collection or from works on loan from other institutions. Current exhibits include Samurai: The Way of the Warrior, an exhibit of more than 90 artifacts from Japanese warriors on loan from Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy. Middle Child: Photographs by Alex Orellana is a photography exhibit by the winner of the 2017 Chazen Museum Prize for an Outstanding MFA Student, which explores gender identity. Upcoming exhibits include a collection of German expressionist prints collected by UW alumna and art historian Barbara Mackey Kaerwer, and Certainty and Doubt, showing paintings by Chicago-based artist Dan Ramirez, Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

750 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, website, Phone: 608-263-2246

Back to: Madison, Wisconsin

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