Marguerite Steed Hoffman’s late husband, Robert Hoffman (Harvard Class of 1969, MBA ’72), once remarked that art is “the only effective method to travel and connect across time and space” (Boston Globe 2006).
To honor her husband, Ms. Hoffman has recently made a major gift to the Art Study Center in the new Harvard Art Museums, where students, faculty, and the public will be able to do just that—by examining works of art firsthand, they can make connections among original objects from different cultures, media, and eras.
Located on the fourth floor of the museums’ new facility, the Marguerite Steed Hoffman Art Study Center Reception Area overlooks our light-filled historic Calderwood Courtyard and will serve as the main point of entry to the center, where specialists will assist visitors with requests and questions about viewing works of art.
Under close supervision, visitors can study one of John Singer Sargent’s sketchbooks, marvel at an ancient Chinese bronze, or sketch a Degas drawing. They can hold—not just view—their chosen objects, to see them from different perspectives, investigate their physical properties, and analyze their formal elements.
Each of our three constituent museums—the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler—will have one study room dedicated to the works in its collection. Members of the curatorial staff will be on hand to engage with visitors and to suggest additional resources for learning. There will also be two seminar rooms for faculty-guided group learning.
The Art Study Center experience is central to the Harvard Art Museums mission to teach students of all ages (at Harvard and elsewhere) through works of art and to make the holdings as accessible as possible for learning, scholarship, and aesthetic enjoyment. Unique among North American universities and museums, the center will let visitors interact with objects not on view and will facilitate teaching and learning from those works of art.
“One of America’s most important teaching museums is poised to enter an exciting new future doing something that most art museums don’t or can’t do: allowing any visitor the opportunity to study works of art drawn from any part of their collections,” said Ms. Hoffman of the Art Study Center. “I applaud Harvard for making this opportunity available to students and visitors, and I am honored to be able to do this for the museums and the university.”
Ms. Hoffman is much more than an arts benefactor—she has dedicated much of her professional and personal life to studying and participating in the art world. She holds an MA in art history from the University of Virginia, has led an art tour company, directed marketing and public relations at the Dallas Museum of Art, and worked as an art gallery director and private dealer, while also serving on numerous boards and committees of major nonprofits, including the Harvard Art Museums Collections Committee for Modern and Contemporary Art. With Mr. Hoffman, a businessman who cofounded the National Lampoon magazine as an undergraduate at Harvard, Ms. Hoffman amassed a remarkable collection of contemporary art.
“As one of our nation’s leading collectors and arts philanthropists, Marguerite has with her generous gift signaled the importance of our Art Study Center among the broader museum community,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director at the Harvard Art Museums. “We're delighted that the Hoffman Reception Area is where our visitors will be invited to partake in profound, unparalleled experiences with original works of art.”
“Robert Hoffman: Lampoon Co-founder Became Philanthropist,” Boston Globe, August 24, 2006.