museums of art

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museums of art,

institutions or buildings where works of art are kept for display or safekeeping. The word museum derives from the Greek mouseion, meaning temple to the works of the Muses. This article is chiefly concerned with museums of art in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States

The foremost repositories of art in the U.S. include, in New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of ArtMetropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City, founded in 1870. The Metropolitan Museum is the foremost repository of art in the United States and one of the world's great museums. It opened in 1880 on its present site on Central Park facing Fifth Ave.
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, the richest and most comprehensive American collection of world art (much of the museum's superb medieval collection is housed separately in the CloistersCloisters, the,
museum of medieval European art, in Fort Tryon Park, New York City, overlooking the Hudson River. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was opened to the public in May, 1938.
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); the Museum of Modern ArtMuseum of Modern Art
(MoMA), New York City, established and incorporated in 1929. It is privately supported. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., was its first director. Operating at first in rented galleries, the museum specialized in loan shows of contemporary European and American art.
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; the Frick Collection, the dwelling and outstanding acquisitions of the industrialist Henry Clay Frick; the Whitney Museum of American ArtWhitney Museum of American Art,
in New York City, founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney with a core group of 700 artworks, many from her own collection. The museum was an outgrowth of the Whitney Studio (1914–18), the Whitney Studio Club (1918–28), and the
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; the American Folk Art Museum; the Guggenheim MuseumGuggenheim Museum,
officially Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, major museum of modern art in New York City. Founded in 1939 as the Museum of Non-objective Art, the Guggenheim is known for its remarkable circular building (1959) with curving interior ramp designed by Frank Lloyd
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, exhibiting primarily the works of contemporary European and American artists; the Pierpont Morgan LibraryPierpont Morgan Library,
originally the private library of J. Pierpont Morgan, in 1924 made a public institution by his son J. P. Morgan as a memorial to his father (see Morgan, family). The library is privately supported; it is located at Madison Ave. and 36th St.
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, housing a vast number of important illuminated manuscripts; the Hispanic Society Gallery; the New-York Historical SocietyNew-York Historical Society,
New York City. Founded in 1804, the society is a repository of art, artifacts, and literature relating to American, especially New York, history.
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, noted for its 19th-century American paintings and Audubon collection; the Brooklyn Museum, strong in Egyptian and American art; and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.

In Boston the Museum of Fine ArtsMuseum of Fine Arts,
Boston, chartered and incorporated (1870) after a decision by the Boston Athenæum, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pool their collections of art objects and house them in adequate public galleries.
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 houses a major collection of American paintings, including the largest number of works by Copley and Stuart in the nation and a magnificent collection of East Asian art; and the Gardner Museum (see under Gardner, Isabella StewartGardner, Isabella Stewart,
1840–1924, American art collector, b. New York City. She lived in Boston following her marriage to the financier Jack Gardner. After the Civil War her home became known for brilliant social affairs and as a center for gatherings of painters,
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) holds a remarkable private collection in an unusual setting. In Cambridge, Mass., the Fogg Museum of Art of Harvard owns a great number of American works and has fine Italian art and graphic arts collections.

In Washington, D.C. the Smithsonian InstitutionSmithsonian Institution,
research and education center, mainly at Washington, D.C.; founded 1846 under the terms of the will of James Smithson of London, who in 1829 bequeathed his fortune to the United States to create an establishment for the "increase and diffusion of
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 operates several major art galleries: the Freer Gallery of Art, notable for its many works by Whistler and its East Asian art collection; the National Museum of American Art and the adjoining National Portrait Gallery; The National Museum of African Art; the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, a collection of Asian art; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, devoted to modern art; and the Renwick Gallery of American design. The National Gallery of ArtNational Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C., an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, established by an act of Congress, 1937. Andrew W. Mellon donated funds for construction of the building as well as his own collection of 130 American portraits.
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, an affiliated institution, houses Washington's principal collection of European and American art in two buildings. Other major collections in Washington include those of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (now part of the National Gallery; see under Corcoran, William WilsonCorcoran, William Wilson
, 1798–1888, American financier, philanthropist, and art collector, b. Georgetown, D.C. After becoming a successful banker, he retired in 1854 and devoted himself to his philanthropic activities, which included gifts to many educational and
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) and the Phillips Collection, both of which are strong in American works.

Other collections of note in the eastern United States include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, N.Y.); the Worcester (Mass.) Art Museum; the Wadsworth Athenaeum (Hartford, Conn.); the Yale Univ. Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.) and its collection of British art; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine ArtsPennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
Philadelphia, established in 1805, incorporated in 1806. It is supported by private endowment. The academy grew out of a proposal by Charles Willson Peale for an art institution; this led to the founding of the Columbianum, which in 1795
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 and the Philadelphia Museum of ArtPhiladelphia Museum of Art,
established in 1875, chartered in 1876. When the city of Philadelphia planned to erect a building to house the Centennial Exposition of 1876, provision was made to keep the building permanently occupied; the Pennsylvania Museum and School of
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, noted for its many works by Eakins (both: Philadelphia); the Barnes Collection (Merion, Pa.), a superb private gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist works; the Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh); and the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore).

In the Midwest and South the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art MuseumCincinnati Art Museum,
Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1877 by the Women's Art Museum Association, the museum opened in 1886. Its collections contain examples spanning 3,000 years of artistic production. Works from Mesopotamia and medieval Europe are featured.
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, the Art Institute of ChicagoArt Institute of Chicago,
museum and art school, in Grant Park, facing Michigan Ave. It was incorporated in 1879; George Armour was the first president. Since 1893 the Institute has been housed in its present building, designed in the classical Beaux-Arts style by the Boston
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, Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Ark., and the museums and galleries of Detroit, Columbus (Ohio), Toledo, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Kansas City (Mo.), and New Orleans are outstanding. The major collections in the West include the Gilcrease Institute (Tulsa, Okla.), the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kimbell Museum (Fort Worth, Tex.), the Huntington Library and Art Gallery (San Marino, Calif.), the Los Angeles County MuseumLos Angeles County Museum of Art,
Los Angeles, Calif. The original museum, the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art, opened in 1913. Among its important patrons was William Randolph Hearst, whose enormous collection, largely donated from 1945 to 1955, brought the
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 and the Museum of Contemporary Art (both: Los Angeles), the Getty CenterGetty Center,
art museum complex in Brentwood, Calif., operated by the J. Paul Getty Trust. It consists of six buildings on 124 acres (50 hectares) located on a spectacular promontory overlooking Los Angeles. Designed by architect Richard Meier, the center opened in 1997.
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 (Brentwood, Calif.), and the San Francisco Museum of Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Canada and Mexico

The National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa) holds that country's foremost public art collection. In Mexico City the major collections are the Palace of Fine Art and the National Museum of AnthropologyNational Museum of Anthropology,
Mexico City. The present building, designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and inspired by ancient Mexican architecture, was opened in 1964 and houses choice and extensive archaeological remains of pre-Columbian Mexico.
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, which houses a vast treasure of Mexican art and important archaeological discoveries as well as a superb ethnographic collection.

Great Britain and Ireland

The richest British collections are housed in the British MuseumBritish Museum,
the national repository in London for treasures in science and art. Located in the Bloomsbury section of the city, it has departments of antiquities, prints and drawings, coins and medals, and ethnography.
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, the Victoria and Albert MuseumVictoria and Albert Museum,
South Kensington, London, opened in 1852 as the Museum of Manufacturers at Marlborough House. It originally contained a nucleus of contemporary objects of applied art bought from the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the instigation of Prince Albert, and
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, the National GalleryNational Gallery,
London, one of the permanent national art collections of Great Britain, est. 1824. The nucleus of museum was the 38-picture collection of the late English banker John Julius Angerstein, which was purchased by the House of Commons; it was initially displayed at
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, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate GalleryTate Gallery,
London, originally the National Gallery of British Art. The original building (in Millbank on the former site of Millbank Prison), with a collection of 65 modern British paintings, was given by Sir Henry Tate and was opened in 1897.
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, the Wallace Collection (see under Wallace, Sir RichardWallace, Sir Richard,
1818–90, English art collector. The illegitimate son of the marquess of Hertford, he inherited in 1871 his father's superb collection of continental art, which he had helped to build.
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), and Sir John Soane's Museum (all: London); the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford); the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge); the National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh); and the Glasgow Art Galleries and Museum (Glasgow). The Royal Collection at Windsor Castle is especially noted for its old master drawings. In Ireland the most important collections include the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Museum of Ireland, and the Trinity College Library (all: Dublin).

Continental Europe

The major European museums and galleries include: Austria—Academy of Fine Arts, Art Historical Museum, Liechtenstein Gallery, Albertina, National Library, and the Czernin Collection (all: Vienna); Belgium—the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and the Old Museum (both: Brussels), and the Museum of Fine Arts (Antwerp); France—the LouvreLouvre
, foremost French museum of art, located in Paris. The building was a royal fortress and palace built by Philip II in the late 12th cent. In 1546 Pierre Lescot was commissioned by Francis I to erect a new building on the site of the Louvre.
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, the Musée D'Orsay, the Pompidou Center, the Bibliothèque nationaleBibliothèque nationale
, national library of France, in Paris, a government archive, and one of the foremost libraries of the world. It originated with the collections of writings made by early French kings, including Charlemagne.
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, and ClunyCluny
, former abbey, E France, in the present Saône-et-Loire dept., founded (910) by St. Berno, a Burgundian monk and reformer. Cluny was one of the chief religious and cultural centers of Europe. The third abbey church built on the site, Cluny III (11th cent.
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, Picasso, Rodin, Carnavalet, Petit-Palais, and Guimet museums (all: Paris), the Versailles Museum and the local institutions of Nantes, Chantilly, Marseilles, and other cities.

A great number of German museums were destroyed during World War II. Most of the outstanding collections in Berlin, Munich, and Dresden were saved, and among the smaller surviving collections are those in the galleries of Augsburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt-am-Main, Freiburg, Hanover, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Trier. Among other museums in Europe are: Greece—the Acropolis Museum, the Byzantine Museum, and the National Archaeological Museum (all: Athens); Italy—UffiziUffizi
, palace in Florence, Italy, built in the 16th cent. by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo I de' Medici as public offices. It houses the state archives of Tuscany and the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world's richest art collections.
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, the Pitti Palace, The Academy art museum, and the BargelloBargello
, 13th-century palace in Florence, Italy, which houses the national museum. Once the residence of the highest city official, but later used as a prison and as the office of the chief of police (bargello
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 (all: Florence), the Vatican, Lateran, Barberini, Farnese, and Borghese palaces (all: Rome), the Academy of Fine Arts and the Scuola de San Rocco (both: Venice), the Brera Palace (Milan), the Cathedral Museum (Siena), and the National Museum (Naples).

Other European museums include: Netherlands—RijksmuseumRijksmuseum
, Dutch national museum in Amsterdam, founded in 1808 by Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland (see under Bonaparte), as the Great Royal Museum in the Royal Palace. In the same year, 225 paintings from the National Museum in The Hague (est.
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 (Amsterdam), the Mauritshuis (The Hague), and the Groninger Museum of Art (Groningen); Portugal—National Museum (Lisbon); Scandinavia—Royal Academy of Arts and National Museum (both: Copenhagen) and the National Museum and State Historical Museum (both: Stockholm); Spain—the PradoPrado, Museo Nacional del
, Spanish national museum of painting and sculpture, in Madrid, one of the finest in Europe. Situated on the Paseo del Prado, it was begun by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 for Charles III, as a museum of natural history, and finished under
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, the Armería, the EscorialEscorial
or Escurial
, monastery and palace, in New Castile, central Spain, near Madrid. One of the finest edifices in Europe, it was built (1563–84) as the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial by Philip II to commemorate the Spanish victory over the French at
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 (all: Madrid) and the El Greco Museum (Toledo); Switzerland—Swiss National Museum (Zürich) and the Art Museum (Basel). In İstanbul, Turkey, the art of Babylon, Assyria, and Byzantium may be seen in the archaeological museums. Among the great Russian collections are those housed in the HermitageHermitage
, museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the world's foremost houses of art, consisting of six buildings along the embankment of the Neva River. Its central building, the Winter Palace (erected 1754–62 by Czarina Elizabeth and the traditional winter residence
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 (St. Petersburg) and the Tretyakov Gallery and Museum of Western Art (both: Moscow).

Middle East and Asia

In Egypt the Cairo Museum excels in the ancient art of that country. The Tehran Museum and the Government Collections in Tehran hold many of the most important Persian art treasures. The Calcutta Museum exhibits the art of India. In Japan in the National Museum (Tokyo), the Kyoto Museum, and the collections of Shoso-in and the National Museum (both: Nara), all periods of Japanese art are well represented.


See K. Schubert, The Curator's Egg: The Evolution of the Museum Concept from the French Revolution to the Present Day (2000, repr. 2011); A. McClellan, The Art Museum from Boullé to Bilbao (2008); C. Paul, The First Museums of Art: The Birth of an Institution in 18th- and Early-19th-Century Europe (2012).

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