Welcome to the UK Art Museum

The University of Kentucky Art Museum, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, promotes the understanding and appreciation of art from diverse cultures and historical periods, providing meaningful encounters for audiences of all ages. Through our temporary exhibitions, educational programs, and permanent collection of approximately 5000 objects, we are a resource for the campus community and a cultural destination for citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond.  Our Free Admission policy removes any financial obstacle that might stand in the way of opportunities for contemplation and connection.

We are proud to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, meeting standards for excellence and professional practices.

person sitting in green room in front of art

Sally Davies: New Yorkers

Artist Sally Davies is well known for tightly composed and keenly observed images capturing the visual rhythms of Manhattan, but in her recent series, New Yorkers, she ventures behind closed doors to make portraits of long-time city dwellers inside their often tiny and idiosyncratic apartments. Some spaces are spare and elegant; others are jam-packed with curated collections ranging from art and books to refrigerator magnets and Pez dispensers. Dogs and cats abound and claw-foot tubs in the kitchen are not unusual. Her book of the series was released on April 1 and is already in a second printing after attracting international attention and selling out in two days.

Davies’s work has been featured in a variety of publications including the book Masters of Street Photography (2019), the New York Times, the Guardian in Great Britain, and the Huffington Post and Slate online. Her photographs are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of the…

general on horse rainbow artwork


Some printmakers have spent their entire lives creating reproductions of the paintings or sculptures created by others. Many artists have been inspired by famed predecessors whose work influenced their own in a variety of ways. It was once common to commission portraits memorializing loved ones—or famous figures—following their deaths. This three-gallery exhibition drawn from the permanent collection explores these and more meanings of the word “after” in the world of art. 

The exhibition includes etchings, engravings, and lithographs made after the work of such luminaries as Flemish artist Peter Paul Ruben, known for his Baroque exuberance; the American painter Gilbert Stuart, known for multiple portraits of George Washington; or John Constable, the Romantic English landscapist. Prints…

Image of Tom Phillips' illustration entitled, "A Humument"

Bookworks II

This exhibition offers another look at many of the unique “artists’ books” in our permanent collection—publications that have been conceived as artworks in their own right. These books were produced in a range of sizes and shapes, and often combine image and text in lively ways. Their physical aspects are essential to the reading/viewing experience.  

Artists associated with Conceptual Art, Minimalism, and Performance Art traditions often found that bookmaking offered them a way to share ideas in an accessible form that was inexpensive to produce and easy to disseminate. These works typically had their own network of distribution, given or mailed to peers or professionals in the field, or sold at art bookstores. This was understood as a democratic ideal that challenged the elitism of the gallery system; and yet today, they participate in the same art and commerce reality as drawings, photographs, and prints. 

Included are books by Don Celender, Brice…

Detail image of James McGarrell's painting, "Cezanne"

Spaces – Bodies – Objects

This exhibition includes several paintings that locate human or animal figures along with enigmatic objects in varied architectural settings. While the works are representational, they are much more confounding than traditional realism, and the artists utilize both close observation and the “anything is possible” fluidity one associates with dreaming.  

The spaces depicted combine aspects of inside and out, nature glimpsed through open windows and porticos, and interiors of uncertain scale. Still-life elements are referential and suggestive, as in James McGarrell’s quotation of a Cezanne canvas behind a seated female nude, and Sheldon Tapley’s jam-packed studio arrangement of flowers, fruits, tools, and stacked playing cards. In Visitation, Dale Daniel Leys shows a decomposing bird specimen as seen through an aperture in a crumbling wall in a room of fluctuating dimensions. Joseph Vavak’s Department Store presents a cross section of a building with eager…

Image of Li Hongwei's work,"Allegory of Balance #18."

Brilliant Illusions: Crafted Forms by Li Hongwei

The renowned ceramic traditions of ancient China find fresh and dynamic expression in the hands of contemporary artist Li Hongwei. His sculpture—which takes the form of graceful hanging pieces as well as work on pedestals—combines crystalline glazes on porcelain with polished steel in ways that reanimate the past and evoke a new future for this art form.  

Li explores the “the interfacings between light and form, reflection and reality, tradition and transformation,” says guest curator Dr. Andrew Maske, associate professor of Asian art history at UK and a specialist in the history of ceramics. “He manipulates iconic ceramic modes from China’s ancient past to create sculpture that expresses the concept of balance, flow, and beauty.” 

Born in Tangshan, China, in 1980, the artist now divides his time between Beijing and New York. Li holds a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and a master’s in ceramic art from the…

Image of Todd Hido's photography, from the series Homes at Night

Todd Hido: The Poetry of Darkness

Photographer Todd Hido is best known for the evocative images he captured while driving through neighborhoods at night, photographing homes whose glowing windows suggest untold stories, but reveal little. For more than twenty-five years, he returned literally and metaphorically to memories and experiences of growing up in Kent, Ohio, finding romance in the mundane. More recently, prompted by global climatic change and the darkening political atmosphere, he began examining a world seemingly on the edge of apocalypse, dominated by lowering skies and eerie light. The Poetry of Darkness explores the landscape domestic and foreign, as well as portraiture, to which he has returned repeatedly in his career.   

Hido has designed and produced eight monographs of his work, which has also been featured in publications including Artforum, the New York Times Magazine, Time, Vanity Fair, and Wired. His book House Hunting (2001) was…

painting by Craig Drennen

Acquisitions, Donations, Connections

This exhibition features numerous works that have entered the Museum’s permanent collection in recent years, and reveals how they relate to other art already in our possession. We are lucky to receive donation offers from generous collectors in our region and beyond, and we consider their proposals carefully. Our goal is always to add examples of underrepresented artists and fill gaps in historical periods, media, and subject matter. We also try to build on existing strengths, expanding holdings of specific artists and areas in which we already have excellent examples. Using collection-dedicated funds, we strategically acquire art, often from our temporary exhibitions and by acclaimed photographers who have lectured as part of our Robert C. May Photography Lecture Series.

Like many museums whose collecting practices try to make up for decades of neglect when it comes to works by women and artists of color, we too have tried to correct these imbalances. When art is “…

Guy Mendes photograph

Guy Mendes: Occasions

This modest survey of portraits by Guy Mendes documents a network of his friendships and the range of creative practitioners he sought out to spend time with and visit. The photographs are infused with a sense of warmth and trust, exemplifying the statement that Mendes remembers his teacher James Baker Hall telling him: “A portrait is given as much as it is taken.”

In discussing the occasions when he was able to make pictures with some of Kentucky’s most acclaimed artists, writers, and teachers, Mendes said, “Each visit to a home or studio was a small celebration, an opportunity to see their work and learn more about them.” Images of Wendell Berry, Jay Bolotin, Guy Davenport, Harlan Hubbard, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, Ann Tower, Jonathan Williams, and others reveal Mendes’s precise eye for his subject’s body language and sense of self. His compositions frame them in domestic and outdoor environments in natural light, comfortable in the act of being photographed.…

etching on paper

Francisco de Goya: Los Disparates

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) is considered Spain’s most important artist at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. He was a court painter for fifty years, producing royal portraits for generations of kings and their families. Los Disparates, his last great series of etching and aquatint prints, was made toward the end of his life. Rather than reflecting the career of a celebrated artist, they are the work of a tortured individual. Goya survived a near-fatal illness that left him deaf, and he lived through a seven-year war that lay waste to the Iberian Peninsula, resulting in a breakdown of Spanish society and a reintroduction of the Inquisition.

Considered his darkest and most mysterious body of work, Los Disparates is also among his most inventive. His fantastic, menacing combinations of humans, animals, goblins, and supernatural creatures seem to satirize humanity’s cruelty. His plates were not printed until thirty-six years after his death,…

cow painting and sculpture


The re:museum exhibition centers our permanent collection and the UK Art Museum itself through artworks, educational prompts, and other incisive displays. The artworks on view in re:museum draw from our Digital Learning Gallery, an online resource established through a UK Arts Extension Outreach Grant that connects art lovers from across the Commonwealth to our collection. re:museum offers visitors an opportunity to view objects up close and complements online engagement with unique in-person opportunities. Each item on view in re:museum includes contextual background information, contemplative prompts, and activities for a variety of ages and art experience levels.

In addition to the artwork on display, re:museum also features insights into the UK Art Museum’s history as well as details on how we install exhibitions and maintain a permanent collection of over 5,000 artworks. How high on the wall are paintings hung? What happens to a photograph before and after it is on…

Created 08/13/2021
Last Updated 10/15/2021