Where is the line drawn between art and cultural heritage artifacts? That question came to mind when I visited the Krannert Art Museum and the Spurlock Museum, both on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana.
Krannert Art Museum
The Krannert Art Museum, the second largest fine art museum in Illinois, has many pieces in their collection that are obviously categorized as art, like the extensive collection of European paintings, many dating back several centuries…
…and the collection of Lorado Taft sculptures. Lorado Taft, an early 20th century sculptor and University of Illinois graduate, left the contents of his studio to U of I. The Lorado Taft collection includes small plaques portraying the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Quincy, Illinois, and his sculptural group “The Blind.”
I’d say this elevator grill from the Chicago Stock Exchange fits into the “art” category.
But go down to the lower level, and that’s where the question of art versus cultural heritage comes in. There are some stunning glass pieces.
There are ancient artifacts from Egypt…
…and from Greece.
There are lots of other items, too, dating back centuries.
The Spurlock Museum holds approximately 43,000 artifacts in its collection, many that certainly can be classified as art.
During my visit, a temporary exhibit displayed museum textile artifacts. Alongside were new textile and fiber art pieces created by members of the C-U Spinners and Weavers Guild who drew their inspiration from the originals.
The Workman Gallery of Ancient Mediterranean Cultures is filled with statues of gods and goddesses.
This urn looks a lot like some of the pieces I saw at the Krannert Art Museum.
In other galleries you’ll find items like this costume used in Carnival rituals in the Andes…
…and Barong Ket, the mythical lion said to possess magical powers. The beast is carried in ceremonial processions in Bali.
So where is the line drawn between art and cultural heritage artifacts? It seems the line is so blurred it’s difficult to tell the difference. Perhaps there’s a technical explanation that can be answered by an art expert or an anthropologist. I am neither. I was just visitor who enjoyed both museums equally.
The Krannert Art Museum is located at 500 E Peabody Drive in Champaign. The Spurlock Museum is located at 600 S Gregory in Urbana. Both museums are free but suggest a donation of $3. Check the web sites for hours.
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