Art has the potential to cut across boundaries and to help us understand who we are and what we hope for in the world. For us, it was Sightlines.

Created by Harvard Art Museums Student Guides Ned Whitman '15 and Dylan Perese '16, this selection of artworks and audio produced for the student opening of the new Harvard Art Museums has served as the basis for our work on Sightlines since the very beginning. Inspired by Harvard’s Chief Curator Dr. Deborah Kao, Director of Student Programs David Odo, Jessica Levin Martinez, Head, Division of Academic and Public Programs.

We have selected ten works to guide you through one experience a visitor might have with light in the new Harvard Art Museums across the collections of the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler collections. As a gallery aide, these works selected for Sightlines' conceptual launch will build your toolbox for engaging with art. Drawing on one’s native visual observational skills, this app highlights a user’s understanding of range, contrast, sharpness, and diffuseness in a given work. Light is one of many ways of looking. We encourage you to think about geometry, form/line, and materials as well. 

Light Machine

Renzo Piano

2014, the harvard art museums building


How does light impact one's viewing experience in a museum?

How do changes in light mimic the immersive experience of unpacking an object?

How do sightlines cut across boundaries of art, culture, and time to rethink the museum experience? 


Nocturne in Blue and Silver

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

c. 1871-72, Oil on Panel

What skills do we need to discover light in the midst of darkness?

How can we understand art objects as physically made objects?

How does close looking help one to realize the power of patience?



Sculpture in the Form of a Nine-Hole Scholar's Rock

Zhang Wang

2001, stainless steel

What does it mean to find beauty in abstraction?

What would be the appearance of frozen light?

How does this object's unique reflectivity shape your viewing experience?


Kuba Cup

Democratic Republic of Congo, Kuba

C. 1880-1900, Wood

How can energy take on physical form?

How does the gallery space affect your experience with the object?

How do objects come alive? In what ways are objects living?


Woman with Animals

Max Pechstein

c. 1912, leaded Stained glass

How does the natural light streaming through the stained glass interact with the artificial light in the gallery?

How might different lights recast the figure of the woman in relationship to her surroundings?

Does viewing this object from different angles stimulate your observations?


258 Fake

Ai Wei Wei

2011, 7677 photographs (2003-11), 12 monitors

What is lost or gained by compressing something down to an unnaturally rapid speed?

How can we understand this work as a call to action mediated by light?

What is the natural pace of life?



Harvard Murals

Mark Rothko

1962, egg tempera and distemper on canvas

Q1: How does light affect our perception of color?

Q2: What is the relationship between light and conservation?

Q3: How does this exhibit represent an intersection between science, technology, and the arts?