Arts & Culture

C-A-T-S on Exhibit at UK Art Museum

painting "Royalty at Home" by Rosa Bonheur
An exhibition on cats has to include the king of the jungle, seen here in "Royalty at Home" by Rosa Bonheur.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 29, 2021) Big Blue Nation knows a little about having a fascination with cats, and a new exhibition at University of Kentucky Art Museum explores the love of felines of all kinds, not just the wildcat.

As part of the free public exhibition “How ‘Bout Them Cats,” UK Art Museum is showcasing lions, leopards and lap cats, deranged kittens and glowering jungle cats. They are portrayed realistically, abstractly, and in stylized form in paintings, sculpture, prints, photography and textiles.

“We realize these may not be UK’s favorite Cats, but in challenging times, we offer an alternative lineup with this exhibition of 19- and 20-century art from the museum’s collection,” Janie Welker, UK Art Museum curator, said.

Work by three women — all trailblazers — offers a sense of the depth and range of this exhibition. Rosa Bonheur was a celebrated animalier artist in mid-19th century France, famed for her naturalistic paintings and watercolors. Her subjects ranged from hens and sheep to the pair of lions portrayed in “Royalty at Home.” The latter were part of her personal menagerie.

Wanda Gág was a pioneering illustrator and commercial artist, whose 1928 book “Millions of Cats” won the prestigious Newberry Medal and is credited with transforming the art of children’s picture books. Her prints, such as the homey “Winter Garden,” were extremely popular and widely collected.

Alice Neel made deeply insightful portraits, often of family, friends, lovers and artists. Her young granddaughter is pictured in “Victoria and the Cat,” a loving, but touchingly awkward image. 

Felines also appear in a Panamanian Mola textile; a rainbow striped portrait by Fluxus artist Ay-O; clutched by a runaway teen in a photograph from Bruce Davidson; and in three-dimensional work from Kentucky artists Steve Armstrong and Robert Lockhart. 

Grab your favorite cat lady (or man) and make a reservation to visit this exhibition on display through March 20, 2021.


To keep patrons and staff safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, UK Art Museum has several protocols in place. All visitors must pre-register for a timed appointment to view exhibitions. Reservations can be made here

In addition, all visitors must abide by the following guidelines when visiting any exhibitions or activities at UK Art Museum:

  • Face masks must be worn by all visitors older than 2 years of age.
  • Capacity will be reduced and controlled to 20 visitors at any time.
  • Temperature checks will be required for visitors and staff prior to entry.
  • Visitors showing signs of illness at any time will be asked to return when they are healthy.
  • Visitors must use provided hand sanitizer upon entry.
  • Social distancing is required and will be enforced.
  • Follow signs noting the direction of traffic in the galleries.
  • Credit or debit cards only; no cash permitted for any purchases. 

UK Art Museum staff will also wear masks, undergo temperature checks prior to entry, use hand sanitizer and practice social distancing. Please check the UK Art Museum website before you visit for the most up-to-date information.

The UK Art Museum’s current hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The museum will be closed Sundays and Mondays.

The mission of the UK Art Museum, part of the UK College of Fine Arts, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art to enhance the quality of life for people of Kentucky through collecting, exhibiting, preserving and interpreting outstanding works of visual art from all cultures. Home to a collection of more than 4,800 objects including American and European paintings, drawings, photographs, prints and sculpture, the Art Museum presents both special exhibitions and shows of work from its permanent collection. 

The UK Art Museum is located in the Singletary Center for the Arts at Rose Street and Euclid Avenue. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.