It’s not just SFMoMA: the University of California at Davis gets a new museum

The opening of the $30m Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) in November adds to the string of new or expanded museums—including the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and SFMoMA—boosting the art world in the Bay Area and recovering the art history of the region.

“A lot of what is credited as the San Francisco art scene actually started out in Davis,” says Rachel Teagle, the museum’s director. During the 1960s and 70s, the small college town, an hour north-east of the Golden Gate Bridge, was home to a vibrant community of artists, including the faculty members Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson and Roy De Forest and students such as Bruce Nauman and Deborah Butterfield.

Seeking to create the pre-eminent repository of Bay Area figurative painting and funk art (once dismissed by the critic Hilton Kramer as “defiant provincialism”), Teagle turned to UC Davis alumni. Arneson’s widow, Sandra Shannonhouse, donated a monumental ceramic by her late husband and around 100 works by California artists including Judy Chicago and Philip Pearlstein.

Thiebaud, who began teaching at UC Davis in 1959 and remains actively involved at the age of 95, gave more than 350 works. His gift includes a cross-section of his own paintings along with 300 works received largely in trade by artists including De Forest and Bruce Conner. “Our museum will give students one-to-one access to original works,” Thiebaud says, “and this intimate relationship is a miracle for teaching.”