Harvard spiffs up dorms with original masterpiece prints

Dorm life can be anything but classy, but Harvard University students are being offered the chance to rent valuable original prints of masterpieces by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol.

Under the Student Print Rental Program run by the Harvard Art Museums, students living in Harvard housing can pay $50 to rent an original print, said Jessica Diedalis, the curricular registrar at the Harvard Art Museums.

The program, which had been on hiatus since 2008 because of museum construction, began in 1972 with an anonymous donation. Museum officials now curate a special collection for students of the Ivy League school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to select from on the first days of class each year.

Of the 275 prints available, 177 have been claimed for this academic year, Diedalis said.

“We want (students) to be inspired by it, to absorb something special in addition to what might already be going up on their walls,” she said.

Students sign a contract that holds them responsible for any damages to the rare works, but Diedalis said there had been no problem in the past. “We find that the students are very careful.”

This year, a wide variety of modern and contemporary pieces are available, including a screen print by Warhol titled, “Fifth New York Film Festival – Lincoln Center” and one by Picasso called “Goat’s Skull on the Table.” Prints by Henri Matisse, William Kentridge and Josef Albers were also up for choosing.

The museum does not disclose the value of its artwork, but the Warhol is one of just 500 made, Diedalis said. A second Warhol print, “Eric Anderson (Chelsea Girls),” is one of 75.

Senior Siddhartha Jena, 21, said she selected a Japanese print of Mount Fuji, by an unknown artist, to hang beside a Pokemon poster in her room. She said she found the piece calming.

“People do not give their bodies or minds the chance to slow down and take pleasure in aesthetic beauty,” said Jena.