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Our Story

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A world-renowned collection. A landmark building. A place that welcomes everyone.

We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone.

We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the museum surprising, lively, and always memorable.

We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

Collection Highlights

Our collection reflects our unique history and the passions of generations of Philadelphia collectors and curators. The museum collection comprises eight curatorial departments: American Art; Contemporary Art; Costume & Textiles; East Asian Art; European Decorative Arts and Sculpture; European Painting; Prints, Drawings & Photographs; and South Asian Art.

Collection highlights include:

The world’s largest and most important collection of works by Marcel Duchamp

The finest public collection of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture in the United States

Superb Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including Paul Cézanne’s The Large Bathers, Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and important paintings by Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Exceptional American painting, sculpture, furniture, silver, and ceramics—including the remarkable creations of the Shakers and Pennsylvania Germans and Black, Indigenous, and Latin American artists—that reflect Philadelphia’s central role in American history

A growing collection of contemporary works by local artists, including Zoe Strauss, Odili Odita, and Roberto Lugo

The greatest collection of sculpture by Constantin Brancusi outside Europe

Extraordinary “period rooms” and architectural ensembles from around the world, including a seventeenth-century Chinese reception hall; a Japanese ceremonial teahouse; a sixteenth-century temple hall from southern India; and the drawing room of the eighteenth-century Lansdowne House, designed by Robert Adam

More than 500 works by self-taught artists such as James Castle, Bill Traylor, and Martín Ramírez

The second largest collection of arms and armor in the United States

Our landmark main building, opened in 1928, and the other buildings that make up our campus: the Perelman Building, the Rodin Museum, and two great eighteenth-century houses in Fairmount Park: Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove

An Overview of the Museum’s History

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recognizes Philadelphia as part of Lënapehòkink, the ancestral homelands of the Lenape peoples. View land acknowledgment >>

The museum began as a legacy of the great Centennial Exhibition of 1876, held in Fairmount Park. At the conclusion of the celebrations, Memorial Hall—which had been constructed as the exhibition’s art gallery—remained open as the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art “for the improvement and enjoyment of the people of the Commonwealth.” In the first few decades, the collections consisted of objects of an industrial nature, as well as fine and decorative art objects such as European ceramics. Books were also among the museum’s earliest acquisitions, as were antique furniture, enamels, carved ivories, jewelry, metalwork, glass, pottery, porcelain, textiles, and paintings.

In 1928, the museum opened its new building (now its main building) on Fairmount, crowning the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and overlooking Center City. The building was designed by Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary; Paul Cret; Horace Trumbauer; and various members of Trumbauer’s firm including senior designer Julian Abele, the first African American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture program. The site of the new museum, which had most recently been the city’s water reservoir, was located on the ancestral homelands of the Lenape peoples. In 1929 the museum accepted responsibility for the management and care of the new Rodin Museum and two historic houses in Fairmount Park: Cedar Grove and Mount Pleasant.

The 1930s and 1940s witnessed extraordinary growth in the collections with a number of important gifts—including the John D. McIlhenny Collection of paintings, sculpture, rugs, textiles, and furniture and the George Grey Barnard Collection of medieval architecture and sculpture.

Acquisitions of the 1950s, such as the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection and the A. E. Gallatin Collection, assured the museum’s prominence as a place in which to see masterpieces of early modern art. A number of period rooms were opened to the public as well, and the decade even saw the gift of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress following her royal 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

Conservation of objects and the renovation of the building were themes of the 1960s, with major gifts including the Mr. and Mrs. Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. Collection, the Samuel S. White III and Vera White Collection, 71 objects from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic Étant donnés. Renovation was a continued theme in the 1970s, as the institution prepared for grand celebrations in honor of the museum’s Centennial and the nation’s Bicentennial.

The 1980s witnessed still more growth, with acquisitions ranging from Edgar Degas’s After the Bath to Cy Twombly’s Fifty Days at Iliam. In the 1990s, the museum embarked on a series of extensive gallery renovations and reinstallations, and made significant additions to the collection, such as Stella Kramrisch’s bequest of 645 Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan objects; Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother; and Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Bust of Benjamin Franklin.

The new millennium brought many changes, including the first renovation of the contemporary art galleries in twenty-five years. As part of the museum’s ongoing master plan, it was announced in 2006 that architect Frank Gehry would create a new vision for the main building (including the newly completed Core Project and a final phase that envisions galleries under the East Terrace). The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building opened to the public in September 2007. Significant acquisitions in this decade included the Julien Levy collection of more than 2,000 photographs and the joint purchase, with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, of Thomas Eakins’s Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic).

In the following decade, the museum continued major facilities improvements, including the dedication of the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden in 2010; a new art-handling facility in 2012; a massive renovation and reinstallation of the Rodin Museum in 2013; the opening of a new Café and Restaurant in 2018; and the reopening of the North Entrance in 2019, with its Vaulted Walkway and new retail store. The museum also launched a number of important new programs during this period, like Art Splash, Pay What You Wish Wednesdays, and Inside Out.

On March 13, 2020, in the face of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, the museum closed its doors to the public; it would not reopen for six months. On September 6, under strict protocols, the museum welcomed visitors back to the galleries, but due to a state-ordered mandate, it was forced to close again on November 20, 2020. Happily, the museum was able to reopen early in January 2021, and is looking forward to returning to full visitor capacity in the year ahead, and to relaunching exhibitions and programs. The long-delayed Core Project was unveiled on May 7, 2021, with the inauguration of new galleries of early American and contemporary art, a renovated West Entrance, and the breathtaking Williams Forum.
Explore the museum transformation here >>.