An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the display of art, usually from the museum's own collection. It might be in public or private ownership and may be accessible to all or have restrictions in place. Although primarily concerned with visual art, art galleries are often used as a venue for other cultural exchanges and artistic activities, such as performance arts, music concerts, or poetry readings. Art museums also frequently host themed temporary exhibitions which often include items on loan from other collections.
In distinction to a commercial art gallery, run by an art dealer, the primary purpose of an art museum is not the sale of the items on show.
Throughout history, large and expensive works of art have generally been commissioned by religious institutions and monarchs and been displayed in temples, churches, and palaces. Although these collections of art were private, they were often made available for viewing for a portion of the public. In classical times, religious institutions began to function as an early form of art gallery. Wealthy Roman collectors of engraved gems (including Julius Caesar) and other precious objects often donated their collections to temples. It is unclear how easy it was in practice for the public to view these items.
In Europe, from the Late Medieval period onwards, areas in royal palaces, castles, and large country houses of the social elite were often made partially accessible to sections of the public, where art collections could be viewed. At the Palace of Versailles, entrance was restricted to people wearing the proper apparel – the appropriate accessories (silver shoe buckles and a sword) could be hired from shops outside. The treasuries of cathedrals and large churches, or parts of them, were often set out for public display. Many of the grander English country houses could be toured by the respectable for a tip to the housekeeper, during the long periods when the family were not in residence.
Special arrangements were made to allow the public to see many royal or private collections placed in galleries, as with most of the paintings of the Orleans Collection, which were housed in a wing of the Palais-Royal in Paris and could be visited for most of the 18th century. In Italy, the art tourism of the Grand Tour became a major industry from the 18th century onwards, and cities made efforts to make their key works accessible. The Capitoline Museums began in 1471 with a donation of classical sculpture to the city of Rome by the Papacy, while the Vatican Museums, whose collections are still owned by the Pope, trace their foundation to 1506, when the recently discovered Laocoön and His Sons was put on public display. A series of museums on different subjects were opened over subsequent centuries, and many of the buildings of the Vatican were purpose-built as galleries. An early royal treasury opened to the public was the Grünes Gewölbe of the Kingdom of Saxony in the 1720s.
Privately established museums open to the public began to be established from the 17th century onwards, often based around a collection of the cabinet of curiosities type. The first such museum was the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, opened in 1683 to house and display the artefacts of Elias Ashmole that were given to Oxford University in a bequest.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, many private collections of art were opened to the public, and during and after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars many royal collections were nationalized, even where the monarchy remained in place, as in Spain and Bavaria.
In 1753, the British Museum was established and the Old Royal Library collection of manuscripts was donated to it for public viewing. In 1777, a proposal to the British government was put forward by MP John Wilkes to buy the art collection of the then late Sir Robert Walpole who had amassed one of the greatest such collections in Europe, and house it in a specially built wing of the British Museum for public viewing. After much debate, the idea was eventually abandoned due to the great expense, and twenty years later, the collection was bought by Tsaritsa Catherine the Great of Russia and housed in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
The Bavarian royal collection (now in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich) was opened to the public in 1779 and the Medici collection in Florence around 1789 (as the Uffizi Gallery). The opening of the Musée du Louvre during the French Revolution in 1793 as a public museum for much of the former French royal collection marked an important stage in the development of public access to art by transferring the ownership to a republican state; but it was a continuation of trends already well established. The building now occupied by the Prado in Madrid was built before the French Revolution for the public display of parts of the royal art collection, and similar royal galleries were opened to the public in Vienna, Munich and other capitals. In Great Britain, however, the corresponding Royal Collection remained in the private hands of the monarch and the first purpose-built national art galleries were the Dulwich Picture Gallery, founded in 1814 and the National Gallery opened to the public a decade later in 1824.
University art museums and galleries constitute collections of art developed, owned, and maintained by all kinds of schools, community colleges, colleges, and universities. This phenomenon exists in the West and East, making it a global practice. Although overlooked, there are over 700 university art museums in the US alone. This number, compared to other kinds of art museums, makes university art museums perhaps the largest category of art museums in the country. While the first of these collections can be traced to learning collections developed in art academies in Western Europe, they are now associated with and housed in centers of higher education of all types.
The word gallery being originally an architectural term, the display rooms in museums are often called public galleries. Also frequently, a series of rooms dedicated to specific historic periods (e.g. Ancient Egypt) or other significant themed groupings of works (e.g. the collection of plaster casts as in the Ashmolean Museum) within a museum with a more varied collection are referred to as specific galleries, e.g. Egyptian Gallery or Cast Gallery.
Works on paper, such as drawings, pastels, watercolors, prints, and photographs are typically not permanently displayed for conservation reasons. Instead, public access to these materials is provided by a dedicated print room located within the museum. Murals generally remain where they have been painted, although many have been removed to galleries. Various forms of 20th-century art, such as land art and performance art, also usually exist outside a gallery. Photographic records of these kinds of art are often shown in galleries, however. Most museum and large art galleries own more works than they have room to display. The rest are held in reserve collections, on or off-site.
Similar to an art gallery is the sculpture garden (or "sculpture park"), which presents sculpture in an outdoor space. Sculpture installation has grown in popularity, whereby temporary sculptures are installed in open spaces during events like festivals.
Most larger paintings from about 1530 onwards were designed to be seen either in churches or (increasingly) palaces, and many buildings built as palaces now function successfully as art museums. By the 18th century additions to palaces and country houses were sometimes intended specifically as galleries for viewing art, and designed with that in mind. The architectural form of the entire building solely intended to be an art gallery was arguably established by Sir John Soane with his design for the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1817. This established the gallery as a series of interconnected rooms with largely uninterrupted wall spaces for hanging pictures and indirect lighting from skylights or roof lanterns.
The late 19th century saw a boom in the building of public art galleries in Europe and America, becoming an essential cultural feature of larger cities. More art galleries rose up alongside museums and public libraries as part of the municipal drive for literacy and public education.
In the middle and late twentieth century, earlier architectural styles employed for art museums (such as the Beaux-Arts style of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the Gothic and Renaissance Revival architecture of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum) succumbed to modern styles, such as Deconstructivism. Examples of this trend include the Guggenheim Museum in New York City by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry, Centre Pompidou-Metz by Shigeru Ban, and the redesign of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Mario Botta. Some critics argue these galleries defeat their purposes because their dramatic interior spaces distract the eye from the paintings they are supposed to exhibit.
Many art museums throughout history have been designed with a cultural purpose or been subject to political intervention. In particular, national art galleries have been thought to incite feelings of nationalism. This has occurred in both democratic and non-democratic countries, although authoritarian regimes have historically exercised more control over administration of art museums. Ludwig Justi was for example dismissed as director of the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) in Berlin in 1933 by the new Nazi authorities for not being politically suitable.
The question of the place of the art museum in its community has long been under debate. Some see art museums as fundamentally elitist institutions, while others see them as institutions with the potential for societal education and uplift. John Cotton Dana, an American librarian and museum director, as well as the founder of the Newark Museum, saw the traditional art museum as a useless public institution, one that focused more on fashion and conformity rather than education and uplift. Indeed, Dana's ideal museum would be one best suited for active and vigorous use by the average citizen, located near the center of their daily movement. In addition, Dana's conception of the perfect museum included a wider variety of objects than the traditional art museum, including industrial tools and handicrafts that encourage imagination in areas traditionally considered mundane. This view of the art museum envisions it as one well-suited to an industrial world, indeed enhancing it. Dana viewed paintings and sculptures as much less useful than industrial products, comparing the museum to a department store. In addition, he encouraged the active lending-out of a museum's collected objects in order to enhance education at schools and to aid in the cultural development of individual members of the community. Finally, Dana saw branch museums throughout a city as a good method of making sure that every citizen has access to its benefits. Dana's view of the ideal museum sought to invest a wider variety of people in it, and was self-consciously not elitist.
Since the 1970s, a number of political theorists and social commentators have pointed to the political implications of art museums and social relations. Pierre Bourdieu, for instance, argued that in spite the apparent freedom of choice in the arts, people's artistic preferences (such as classical music, rock, traditional music) strongly tie in with their social position. So called cultural capital is a major factor in social mobility (for example, getting a higher-paid, higher-status job). The argument states that certain art museums are aimed at perpetuating aristocratic and upper class ideals of taste and excludes segments of society without the social opportunities to develop such interest. The fine arts thus perpetuate social inequality by creating divisions between different social groups. This argument also ties in with the Marxist theory of mystification and elite culture.
Furthermore, certain art galleries, such as the National Gallery in London and the Louvre in Paris are situated in buildings of considerable emotional impact. The Louvre in Paris is for instance located in the former Royal Castle of the ancient regime, and is thus clearly designed with a political agenda. It has been argued that such buildings create feelings of subjugation and adds to the mystification of fine arts.
Most art museums have only limited online collections, but a few museums, as well as some libraries and government agencies, have developed substantial online catalogues. Museums, libraries, and government agencies with substantial online collections of prints, photographs, and other works on paper include:
Museums, libraries, and government agencies with substantial online collections with more focus on paintings and sculpture include:
There are a number of online art catalogues and galleries that have been developed independently of the support of any individual museum. Many of these, like American Art Gallery, are attempts to develop galleries of artwork that are encyclopedic or historical in focus, while others are commercial efforts to sell the work of contemporary artists.
A limited number of such sites have independent importance in the art world. The large auction houses, such as Sotheby's, Bonhams, and Christie's, maintain large online databases of art which they have auctioned or are auctioning. Bridgeman Art Library serves as a central source of reproductions of artwork, with access limited to museums, art dealers, and other professionals or professional organizations.
There are also online galleries that have been developed by a collaboration of museums and galleries that are more interested with the categorization of art. They are interested in the potential use of folksonomy within museums and the requirements for post-processing of terms that have been gathered, both to test their utility and to deploy them in useful ways.
The steve.museum is one example of a site that is experimenting with this collaborative philosophy. The participating institutions include the Guggenheim Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
NOTE: There are relatively few local/regional/national organizations specifically for ART MUSEUMS. Most art museums are associated with local/regional/national organizations for ARTS or HUMANITIES or MUSEUMS. Many of these organizations, in the USA, are listed on these websites, with web links:
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco – Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture houses one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world, with more than 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, some as much as 6,000 years old.Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) are a combined art museum and repertory movie theater and archive, associated with the University of California, Berkeley. The director is Lawrence Rinder who was appointed in 2008.The building underwent updates beginning in 2009 and which finished in 2015. The archive and art museum moved from its original home to a new location on Center Street; the museum opened to the public in January 2016.Cartoon Art Museum
The Cartoon Art Museum (CAM) is a California art museum that specializes in the art of comics and cartoons. It is the only museum in the Western United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of cartoon art. The permanent collection features some 7,000 pieces as of 2015, including original animation cels, comic book pages and sculptures.Until September 2015, the museum was located in the Yerba Buena Gardens cultural district of San Francisco, in the South of Market neighborhood. It reopened October 2017, in a new location in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco.Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum — DAM is an art museum located in the Civic Center of Denver, Colorado. The museum is one of the largest art museums between the West Coast and Chicago. It is known for its collection of American Indian art, and its other collections of more than 70,000 diverse works from across the centuries and world.Harvard Art Museums
The Harvard Art Museums are part of Harvard University and comprise three museums: the Fogg Museum (established in 1895), the Busch-Reisinger Museum (established in 1903), and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (established in 1985) and four research centers: the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis (founded in 1958), the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art (founded in 2002), the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies (founded in 1928). The three museums that constitute the Harvard Art Museums were initially integrated into a single institution under the name Harvard University Art Museums in 1983. The word "University" was dropped from the institutional name in 2008.
The collections include approximately 250,000 objects in all media, ranging in date from antiquity to the present and originating in Europe, North America, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art ("The Johnson Museum") is an art museum located on the northwest corner of the Arts Quad on the main campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Its collection includes two windows from Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House, and more than 35,000 other works in the permanent collection. It was designed by architect I.M. Pei and is known for its distinctive concrete facade.Iowa State University
Iowa State University of Science and Technology, generally referred to as Iowa State, is a public land-grant and space-grant research university located in Ames, Iowa, United States. It is the largest university in the state of Iowa and the third largest university in the Big 12 athletic conference. Iowa State is classified as a research university with "highest research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Iowa State is also a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), which consists of 60 leading research universities in North America.Founded in 1858 and coeducational from its start, Iowa State became the nation's first designated land-grant institution when the Iowa Legislature accepted the provisions of the 1862 Morrill Act on September 11, 1862, making Iowa the first state in the nation to do so.Iowa State's academic offerings are administered today through eight colleges, including the graduate college, that offer over 100 bachelor's degree programs, 112 master's degree programs, and 83 at the Ph.D. level, plus a professional degree program in Veterinary Medicine.Iowa State University's athletic teams, the Cyclones, compete in Division I of the NCAA and are a founding member of the Big 12 Conference. The Cyclones field 16 varsity teams and have won numerous NCAA national championships.Milwaukee Art Museum
The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) is an art museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Its collection contains nearly 25,000 works of art. It is one of the largest museums in the United States.Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
MoMA plays a major role in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as one of the largest and most influential museums of modern art in the world. MoMA's collection offers an overview of modern and contemporary art, including works of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books and artist's books, film, and electronic media.The MoMA Library includes approximately 300,000 books and exhibition catalogs, over 1,000 periodical titles, and over 40,000 files of ephemera about individual artists and groups. The archives holds primary source material related to the history of modern and contemporary art.Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum is an art museum located in Pasadena, California, United States. It was previously known as the Pasadena Art Institute and the Pasadena Art Museum.Portland Art Museum
The Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, United States, was founded in 1892, making it the oldest art museum on the West Coast and seventh oldest in the US. Upon completion of the most recent renovations, the Portland Art Museum became one of the 25 largest art museums in the US, at a total of 240,000 square feet (22,000 m²), with more than 112,000 square feet (10,400 m²) of gallery space. The permanent collection has more than 42,000 works of art, and at least one major traveling exhibition is usually on show. The Portland Art Museum features a center for Native American art, a center for Northwest art, a center for modern and contemporary art, permanent exhibitions of Asian art, and an outdoor public sculpture garden. The Northwest Film Center is also a component of Portland Art Museum.
The mission of the Portland Art Museum is to serve the public by providing access to art of enduring quality, by educating a diverse audience about art and by collecting and preserving a wide range of art for the enrichment of present and future generations. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, with accreditation through 2024.Princeton University Art Museum
The Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM) is the Princeton University's gallery of art, located in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1882, it now houses over 92,000 works of art that range from antiquity to the contemporary period. The Princeton University Art Museum dedicates itself to supporting and enhancing the University's goals of teaching, research, and service in fields of art and culture, as well as to serving regional communities and visitors from around the world. Its collections concentrate on the Mediterranean region, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.
The museum has a large collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from Princeton University's excavations in Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes examples from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century, and there is a growing collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art. Photographic holdings are a particular strength, numbering over 27,000 works from the invention of daguerreotype in 1839 to the present. The museum is also noted for its Asian art gallery, which includes a wide collection of Chinese calligraphy, painting, ancient bronze works, jade carvings, as well as porcelain selections. In addition to its collections, the museum mounts regular temporary exhibitions featuring works from its own holdings as well as loans made from public and private collections around the world.
Admission is free and the museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Thursday, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, and Sunday 12:00 to 5:00 pm.A new building for the museum will be constructed on the same site over the course of three years starting in 2020 with David Adjaye serving as architect.Pérez Art Museum Miami
The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is a contemporary art museum that relocated in 2013 to the Museum Park in Downtown Miami, Florida. Founded in 1984 as the Center for the Fine Arts, it became known as the Miami Art Museum from 1996 until it was renamed in 2013 upon the opening its new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron at 1103 Biscayne Boulevard. PAMM, along with the $275 million Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and a city park which are being built in the area with completion in 2017 , is part of the 20-acre Museum Park (formerly Bicentennial Park).In 2014, the museum's permanent collection contained over 1,800 works, particularly 20th- and 21st-century art from the Americas, Western Europe and Africa. In 2016, the museum's collection contained nearly 2,000 works.Since the opening of the new museum building at Museum Park, the museum has seen record attendance levels with over 150,000 visitors in its first four months. The museum had originally anticipated over 200,000 visitors in its first year at the new location. At its former location on Flagler Street, the museum received on average about 60,000 visitors annually.Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is directly served by rapid transit at Museum Park Metromover station.Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the principal U.S. art museums, with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all corners of the world. Its three-story building stands in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is visited by up to a half million people every year. Admission is free through a subsidy from the cultural tax district for St. Louis City and County.In addition to the featured exhibitions, the museum offers rotating exhibitions and installations. These include the Currents series, which features contemporary artists, as well as regular exhibitions of new media art and works on paper.Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum (commonly known as "SAM") is an art museum located in Seattle, Washington. It maintains three major facilities: its main museum in downtown Seattle; the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM) in Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill, and the open Olympic Sculpture Park on the central Seattle waterfront, which opened on January 20, 2007.Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum (commonly known as SAAM, and formerly the National Museum of American Art) is a museum in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian Institution. Together with its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery, SAAM holds one of the world's largest and most inclusive collections of art, from the colonial period to the present, made in the United States. The museum has more than 7,000 artists represented in the collection. Most exhibitions take place in the museum's main building, the old Patent Office Building (shared with the National Portrait Gallery), while craft-focused exhibitions are shown in the Renwick Gallery.
The museum provides electronic resources to schools and the public through its national education program. It maintains seven online research databases with more than 500,000 records, including the Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture that document more than 400,000 artworks in public and private collections worldwide. Since 1951, the museum has maintained a traveling exhibition program; as of 2013, more than 2.5 million visitors have seen the exhibitions.Speed Art Museum
The Speed Art Museum, originally known as the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, now colloquially referred to as the Speed by locals, is the oldest, largest, and foremost museum of art in Kentucky. It is located in Louisville, Kentucky on Third Street next to the University of Louisville Belknap campus and receives around 180,000 visits annually.The museum offers visitors a variety of "art experiences" outside its collection and international exhibitions, including the Speed Concert Series, the Art Sparks Interactive Family Gallery, and the popular late-night event, After Hours at the Speed.The Speed houses ancient, classical, and modern art from around the world. The focus of the collection is Western art, from antiquity to the present day. Holdings of paintings from the Netherlands, French and Italian works, and contemporary art are particularly strong, with sculpture prominent throughout.Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum, located in Mount Vernon-Belvedere, Baltimore, Maryland, United States, is a public art museum founded and opened in 1934. It holds collections established during the mid-19th century. The Museum's collection was amassed substantially by major American art and sculpture collectors, a father and son: William Thompson Walters, (1819–1894), who began serious collecting when he moved to Paris as a nominal Southern/Confederate sympathizer at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861; and Henry Walters (1848–1931), who refined the collection and made arrangements for the construction of a later landmark building to rehouse it. After allowing the Baltimore public to occasionally view his father's and his growing added collections at his West Mount Vernon Place townhouse/mansion during the late 1800s, he arranged for an elaborate stone palazzo-styled structure built for that purpose in 1905–1909. Located across the back alley, a block south of the Walters mansion on West Monument Street/Mount Vernon Place, on the northwest corner of North Charles Street at West Centre Street.
The mansion and gallery were also just south and west of the landmark Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere neighborhood, just north of the downtown business district and northeast of Cathedral Hill. Upon his 1931 death, Henry Walters bequeathed the entire collection of then more than 22,000 works, the original Charles Street Gallery building, and his adjacent townhouse/mansion just across the alley to the north on West Mount Vernon Place to the City of Baltimore, "for the benefit of the public." The collection includes masterworks of ancient Egypt, Greek sculpture and Roman sarcophagi, medieval ivories, illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance bronzes, Old Master European and 19th-century paintings, Chinese ceramics and bronzes, Art Deco jewelry, and ancient Near East, Mesopotamian, or ancient Middle East items.
In 2000, "The Walters Art Gallery" changed its long-time name to "The Walters Art Museum" to reflect its image as a large public institution and eliminate confusion among some of the increasing out-of-state visitors. The following year, "The Walters" (as it is often known in the city) reopened its original main building after a dramatic three-year physical renovation and replacement of internal utilities and infrastructure. The Archimedes Palimpsest was on loan to the Walters Art Museum from a private collector for conservation and spectral imaging studies.
Starting on October 1, 2006, the museum began having free admission year-round as a result of substantial grants given by Baltimore City and the surrounding suburban Baltimore County arts agencies and authorities. In 2012, "The Walters" released nearly 20,000 of its own images of its collections on a Creative Commons license, and collaborated in their upload to the world-wide web and the internet on Wikimedia Commons. This was one of the largest and most comprehensive such releases made by any museum.Weisman Art Museum
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum is an art museum located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The museum was founded in 1934 and is named in honor of art collector Frederick R. Weisman. Originally based in Northrop Auditorium, it moved into its current building (designed by Frank Gehry) in 1993. Widely known as a "modern art museum," the 25,000+ image collection has large collections of Marsden Hartley, Alfred Maurer, Charles Biederman, Native American Mimbres pottery, and traditional Korean furniture.
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