Downtown Princeton is a destination for many activities: dining, shopping, concerts, fitness classes, movies and more. Now visitors can add art appreciation to that list.
The Princeton University Art Museum’s two downtown galleries — Art@Bainbridge and Art on Hulfish — have offered visitors to Princeton’s downtown the opportunity to enjoy world-class art in intimate settings that are within easy reach of many other amenities. Both locations are free and open to the public.
“Our new galleries in two street-front locations afford new opportunities for community engagement — including accidental foot traffic — and for partnerships with our downtown neighbors, both in the small business and non-profit communities, while affording exciting moments for experimentation,” said James Steward, the Nancy A. Nasher-David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director, Princeton University Art Museum.
Art@Bainbridge, at 158 Nassau Street in the historic Bainbridge House adjacent to the Princeton Garden Theatre, presents monographic shows. Art on Hulfish resides amidst many varied storefronts at 11 Hulfish Street and presents photo-driven group exhibitions that consider themes of significance to 21st-century life.
Their locations make the galleries convenient destinations in themselves, but also invite spontaneous exploration.
Visitors thus far have been a diverse mix of students, local and regional guests who have come downtown to shop or dine, and art enthusiasts who have come specifically to see an exhibition, Steward said. “Some are clearly coming intentionally, while others are visiting opportunistically before or after shopping, a meal, ice cream and the like,” he said.
A central attraction in the Princeton area that drew more than 200,000 visitors annually prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Princeton University Art Museum is under construction while a new museum, designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, is being built. The building is expected to open in late 2024.
In the interim, the downtown galleries are allowing the museum to continue serving the public along with its robust live programming, campus art, rich digital offerings and more. With a combined nine exhibitions a year — four annually at Art on Hulfish and five at Art@Bainbridge — each space is intended to foster repeat visitorship, with experiences aggregating over time to provide important insights into the state of contemporary art practice.
Currently on view at Art@Bainbridge is an exhibition titled “Elizabeth Colomba: Repainting the Story,” Colomba’s first solo museum project. Colomba uses Bainbridge House’s colonial-era interiors as a foil for her paintings, which foreground historical and fictional Black women, often richly dressed and placed in the opulent spaces from which they have been erased or in which they were assigned subservient roles. The exhibition is open through May 8.
Art on Hulfish is hosting “Native America: In Translation,” an exhibition curated by artist Wendy Red Star, which gathers work by Indigenous artists who consider the complex histories of colonialism, identity and heritage. The exhibition, for which Art on Hulfish is the first venue, extends Red Star’s work as guest editor of the Fall 2020 issue of Aperture magazine. It will be on view through April 24.
Dorothea von Moltke, owner of Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street, said she was excited to welcome Art@Bainbridge as a neighbor. “Having a gallery of that caliber down the street from us is wonderful synergy,” she said.
Labyrinth Books maintained a display of Virginia Woolf’s novel “Orlando” this winter when Art on Hulfish opened with a similarly themed exhibit titled “Orlando,” featuring contemporary photography guest-curated by award-winning actor Tilda Swinton.
“The recent opening of Art on Hulfish, in my mind, is more of the kind of good thing of which a town like Princeton can never have enough,” von Moltke said.
Jessica Durrie, co-owner of Small World Coffee with locations on Witherspoon Street and Nassau Street, said the galleries have helped to keep the Art Museum front of mind for visitors while construction is underway, but they also add another dimension to the central business district.
“The pandemic has taken a toll on the downtown, and even before that, we were experiencing a lot of empty storefronts,” Durrie said. “As a retailer in the food and beverage business, when people have reasons to come to town and stroll around, it improves everybody’s revenue. I think it’s great for the Art Museum to have representation in town during the construction, especially. But it’s also good for the businesses to have other reasons for people to be curious about what’s happening in Princeton. It’s an ecosystem of support.”
Hours and visitor information for Art@Bainbridge and Art on Hulfish along with details about upcoming exhibits are available on the Art Museum’s website.
Princeton University Art Museum also maintains a museum store at 56 Nassau Street, within a few blocks of both galleries.