Academic Focus Gallery

Gallery for Learning

Students can work with faculty to design installations in the museum’s Academic Focus Gallery relevant to their courses. The gallery is located on the main floor near the University Classroom. Departments that have utilized the Academic Focus Gallery include: Classical Studies; Cultural Anthropology; Romance Studies; Eurasian Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies.

The Academic Focus Gallery is a gift of Susan and Trent Carmichael and the Morrow Family.

The Archaeology of Death

Students in the course “The Archaeology of Death” report on objects from the collection. Photo by Marianne Eileen Wardle.


Europe in Transit: The Arts of Migration

Professor Helen Solterer

Europe today faces waves of migrants from the South, as well as refugees from the war zones of the Middle East. This migration represents a threat for some on the Right as it feeds debate over the European Union’s ‘austerity’ policy that tightens restrictions for full rights in the EU. These political positions take for granted that a core of Europe exists, one assumed to be stable, even uniform. This course investigates the opposite view of European culture by considering currents of migration that have defined & enriched European cultures over centuries. It tests this view through the literary and visual arts, and takes an historical approach.

Duke Unversity seminar “Art History/Visual Media Studies/Romance Studies 202 and French 429” is structured as a collaborative seminar with the Nasher Museum, we explored artworks that could have been made by itinerant craftsmen, or could have been carried long distances by their subsequent owners. The seminar was designed, in part, as a practicum, initiating students in the preparatory work for a future small exhibition. The class is using this installation in the Academic Focus Gallery as a study space for the works selected from the Nasher’s permanent collection.

We consider these artworks in the contexts of first of A Seventh Man by John Berger and Jean Mohr, and Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, by Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou, which give us tools for analyzing the arts of migration.



Chinese Art: 1900 to the Present

Professor Stanley Abe
October 15, 2016 – January 22, 2017

This exhibition for the class “Chinese Art: 1900 to the Present” offers the opportunity to view a small but distinguished group of Chinese art.  The works span the history of Chinese art from the earliest periods (Shang Dynasty, c. 1500–c. 1050 BCE) to the twenty-first century.

Most important are scholarly objects—the brush, the ink stone and implements for producing ink, and identifying seals to afix in red on the completed calligraphy or painting.  Writing and painting are a single process and act.  The shape, density and nuance of the brushed line is the art.

Just Mercy

August 6 – October 2, 2016

This installation was inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2014), the 2016 Common Experience summer reading book for incoming first-year students at Duke. The works on display come from the Nasher Museum’s collection. They broadly reflect themes found throughout Just Mercy, including the law, the criminal justice system, imprisonment, and racial and socio-economic injustices. Twenty-three Duke faculty members have offered their personal responses to the artworks and to Stevenson’s book. Read their responses (pdf).


Click any image below to see in full.

 Just Mercy is Bryan Stevenson’s personal account of fighting for justice in the U.S. legal system. While a student at Harvard Law School, Stevenson interned at the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee in Atlanta, Georgia, representing poor clients on death row. This experience inspired him to later co-found the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. The non-profit organization provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system, most often due to racial and socio-economic biases. EJI also advocates for reforming the criminal justice system. In Just Mercy, Stevenson details several of the cases he has taken on as a defense attorney—individuals wrongly convicted of crimes and sentenced to death, children prosecuted as adults and placed in prisons where they were abused, and mentally disabled people, convicted and sent to jail, their special needs ignored. Working closely with the poor, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned has taught Stevenson—and Stevenson, in turn, teaches us—that everyone deserves justice and mercy.



Making Faces at the Intersection of Art and Neuroscience

March 26 – July 24, 2016

“Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror or the painter?” –Pablo Picasso

A BasDownload the Making Faces brochure (pdf).s Connections project team of faculty and students organized this installation exploring the intersection of art and neuroscience of making faces at the Nasher Museum. We see faces everywhere: in electrical outlets, in the headlights and grill of a car and even in the shadows of the moon. But why do we see faces in these objects, and what are the necessary elements for us to perceive them? Do representations of faces have to be realistic for them to be recognizable? And why do faces capture our attention more than other objects? Humans have a particular expertise for faces that biases our perception of them. From an artistic perspective, many of the works presented here push the boundaries of representation in their distortion of facial features, leading us to question the limits of what makes a face. For scientists, they may prompt questions about specific face processing neural mechanisms and the relationship between our perception and human nature. Many of these works seek to challenge our conventional ideas of what elements are necessary to compose a face, while others seek to reinforce them. By merging art and neuroscience, we can reframe our understanding of faces in artwork by exploring both why and how we see them.

Download the Making Faces brochure (pdf).

This project is part of the work of Art, Vision, & the Brain, a Bass Connections team at Duke exploring the depictions of faces and how our brains make sense of our visual and social world.

Eye Tracking


Learn about Eye Tracking and Art from Pearson Lab.

Project team:

Monica Huerta, Ph.D, Provost’s Postdoctoral Associate, Women’s Studies

Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D, Assistant Research Professor, Neurobiology, and Associate Director, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Eleonora Lad, MD, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology

Jeff MacInnes, Ph.D, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience

Guillermo Sapiro, Ph.D, Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Marianne Wardle, Ph.D, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs, Head of Education & Interpretation, Nasher Museum

Kaitlin Henderson, Masters in Liberal Studies (Duke class of ’16)

Anuhita Basavaraju, Neuroscience Major (Duke class of ’18)

Peter Cangialosi, Neuroscience and French Major (Duke class of ’16)

Sophie Katz, Neuroscience Major (Duke class of ’17)

Eduardo Salgado, Neuroscience and Psychology Major (Duke class of ’18)

Christopher Yoo, Biology Major (‘18)



For more information about using the Academic Focus Gallery, contact Marianne Wardle, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs, at