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The Museum’s Permanent Collection


The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art and one of the world’s largest and most inclusive collections of art made in the United States, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. Our collection captures the aspirations, character, and imagination of the American people across more than three centuries. These artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. In recent years, the museum has strengthened its commitment to contemporary art, and in particular media arts.

More than 7,000 artists are represented in the collection, including major masters, such as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Helen Frankenthaler, Christo, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Lee Friedlander, Roy Lichtenstein, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, and Robert Rauschenberg. The Museum has been a leader in identifying and collecting significant aspects of American visual culture. We have the largest collection of New Deal art and the finest collection of contemporary craft, American impressionist paintings, and masterpieces from the Gilded Age. Other pioneering collections include photography, modern folk art, work by African American and Latino artists, images of western expansion, and realist art from the first half of the twentieth century.

The Museum’s collection of contemporary American craft is on display at the Renwick Gallery and in the Luce Foundation Center. Major works by well-established craft masters, such as Wendell Castle, Dale Chihuly, Robert Ebendorf, David Ellsworth, Sheila Hicks, Karen LaMonte, Beth Lipman, Sam Maloof, and Albert Paley, as well as objects by up-and-coming artists, are featured.

See the following categories for detailed descriptions of our collection:

Early America: The American Colonies and the Early Republic

Nineteenth-Century Art: The Hudson River School and the Lure of the West

Twentieth-Century Art: Realism and Abstraction

Contemporary Art

African American Art

Craft Collections: Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts

Folk and Self-Taught Art

Latino Art



Works on Paper: Prints and Drawings

Luce Foundation Center

Luce Center

The museum’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art, a study center and visible art storage facility, displays more than 3,300 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection in a three-story skylight space. A variety of programs are offered in the center, including themed scavenger hunts for children, a weekly sketching workshop, Art + Coffee tours, and a variety of interactive games and programs. Ten award-winning interactive computer kiosks share information about every object on display and include discussions of each artwork, artist biographies, audio interviews, still images, and nearly seventy videos created exclusively for the Luce Center. Audio tours with more than 180 stops can be accessed through a cell phone, iTunes, or free MP3 players available at the Center’s information desk.