UC Davis Honors Eggheads, Art Heritage Today

Three people stand in front of library exhibit on Robert Arneson
Sandy Shannonhouse, Robert Arneson's widow, Bill Garrity, Interim University Librarian, Shields Library, and Kirk Arneson, Robert Arneson's son, discuss a new exhibit at Shields Library honoring the Eggheads and Robert Arneson in 2024 at media events held Thursday, April 1. (Alysha Beck/UC Davis)

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The University of California, Davis, honored The Egghead Series of sculptures and by extension its arts heritage in special events today marking the 30th anniversary year of the last Egghead installations on campus.

The edgy and expressive works of the late sculptor Robert Arneson can be found throughout the world. Eight of his pieces line the walls at Shields Library on the campus where Arneson taught art for three decades.

But to students and alumni, Arneson’s most enduring legacy is the outsized, eggshell-colored Egghead sculptures on campus that they love, hug, and pose with in their caps and gowns at commencement — and on ordinary days, too.

UC Davis Band member play their instruments and rub the Egghead for good luck.
Members of the UC Davis marching band play their instruments and rub the Bookhead for good luck during final exams in fall 2023. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The sculptures on five central sites are part of the lore of the 5,300-acre campus, bringing everything from good luck during exams (kiss or rub the Bookhead) to a watchful eye on campus administrators (Eye on Mrak (Fatal Laff)). The Egghead Series exemplifies Arneson’s humorous take on serious subjects, as well as his vital role in the California Funk art movement that was incubated at UC Davis before reaching a global audience.

“Robert Arneson would be stunned and delighted that the Eggheads are garnering so much attention,” said Sandy Shannonhouse, Arneson’s widow, artist and a graduate of the university at an event at the university’s museum. “It is the students themselves and the Davis community who made them their unofficial mascot of this campus.

Throughout 2024 UC Davis is commemorating this art heritage through a series of events, a special lobby display at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, and a new line of Egghead-themed products that enable anyone to wear or take a piece of Arneson home with them.

Products and an interactive website are live. A portion of proceeds from the sales of Egghead merchandise go toward the restoration and preservation of The Egghead Series.

Manetti Shrem Museum display

As part of the Egghead celebration, the Manetti Shrem Museum showcases Arneson’s early models of the Eggheads in its lobby. Most of these models, known as maquettes, have never been shown before. Mounted near the large front windows, the display is visible even when the museum is closed. Photos and stories submitted by Aggies about their memories and moments with the sculptures  accompany the Egghead models.

Hatched: The Making of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads” will be on view through June 16.

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

  • Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu
  • Laura Compton, Communications Specialist, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, llcompton@ucdavis.edu
  • James Nash, News and Media Relations director, jnash@ucdavis.edu, 530-219-0943

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