Oberlin Blogs

I Rented a Picasso for $5

May 9, 2018

Sarah Dalgleish ’20

One of the main things that attracted me to Oberlin was how many events and traditions happen on campus. Every year, there’s Organ Pump, Drag Ball, Solarity, Folk Fest, convocation talks, and so many more events, but the one I most looked forward to was art rental. I’ve participated for the past two years and it’s always one of my favorite days.

My first semester freshman year, two of my friends and I camped at the Allen overnight to get the full art rental experience. We pitched a tent in the museum courtyard, brought some grilled cheese sandwiches and a deck of cards, and settled in for the night. The atmosphere at art rental is one of excitement and good-spirited competitiveness; all night people were pulling up the art rental collection on their phones and “claiming” which pieces they would get in the morning.

three college students stand smiling in front of a tent
Art Rental Campout! 


I once heard someone call this event a mix of hunger games and Christmas morning and I can’t think of a better description. People line up and are allowed into the museum a few at a time while anticipation steadily grows. I’m not going to lie—when I get to the front, my heart is always pumping with nervousness and excitement about the art hunt to come. As students exit the museum with the pieces they’ve chosen, there are collective shouts of excitement or disappointment from the waiting crowd if the one they had their heart set on gets taken. That being said, I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as getting a “bad” piece of art because the Allen really does pick so many cool works for students to rent.


A pair of boots stand on a brick floor with a sign in front of them that says "ART RENTAL"
On your mark, get set, rent your art!

But anyway, you clicked on this blog post to hear about the Picasso.


Last semester, I rented this piece called Two Acrobats in the Night Garden by Spanish painter Joan Miró and I absolutely loved it.


Joan Miro's painting "Two Acrobats in the Night Garden
Image credit: MoMA


When I had to give it back, there were definitely a few tears involved. When I found out my conference swim meet fell on the same weekend as art rental this semester, I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to try to get the piece again. I begged my roommates to try to get it for our room and came back from my meet hoping to find the painting waiting for me, but instead I entered our room to see this beautiful Picasso.


Needless to say, I was ecstatic. So ecstatic that I was able to overlook the fact that they hadn’t been able to get the Miro piece again… except that wasn’t true. In an effort to prank me, my friends had hidden the painting (which they had in fact rented) to see my reaction. My tip for them would be that if you’re trying to disappoint someone, don’t do so by presenting them with a Picasso.

They had actually collectively rented the Picasso and two Miro pieces. So while I didn’t actually personally rent a Picasso for $5, my roommates rented a Picasso and two Miros for $15. It goes without saying that we had a lot of people over to our room this semester just to show off our art, which brings me to my favorite part about art rental: what’s better than a bunch of people getting together to nerd out about art?

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