The museum’s collection begins with works from the colonies of New Spain and New England.
The museum’s collection charts the nation’s growth from a young republic to an emerging world power. Landscapes extolling the nation’s geographic wonders from Niagara Falls to the Grand Canyon drove and documented westward expansion. Asher Durand’s Dover Plains, Dutchess County, New York presents an idyllic landscape where man and nature coexist.
Artists in the twentieth century chose two distinct ways to depict modernism and the excitement of progress—realism and abstraction. Both are well represented in the collection. The museum has the largest collection of New Deal art and murals in the country. Images of jazz and street life, farms and factories, workers and families captured a changing America
In recent years, the museum has strengthened its commitment to contemporary art through acquisitions, commissions, and exhibitions.
SAAM is home to one of the most significant collections of works by African American artists in the world with a long-standing commitment to Black artists and the acquisition, preservation, and display of their work. The collection spans three centuries of creative expression in various media, including painting, sculpture, textiles, and photography.
The museum’s collection of contemporary American craft is considered one of the finest in the United States.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of folk and self-taught art represents the powerful vision of America’s untrained and vernacular artists. Represented in the museum’s collection are pieces that draw on tradition and artworks that reveal a more personal vision.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s leading Latinx art collection represents a profound commitment to building a great national collection reflecting the rich contributions of Latinos to our country from the colonial period to the present and the diversity of Latino communities in the United States.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s photography collection ranges from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works. Since 1983 when the museum began actively building the collection, SAAM’s photography program has focused on works that capture and address the conditions of everyday life in the United States, embracing the diversity of the medium and its practitioners.
The museum’s American sculpture collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
Graphic arts comprise a large part of the museum’s collection, which reveals the central importance of works on paper for American artists, both as studies for creations in other media and as finished works of art.
The Time-Based Media Art Initiative at the Smithsonian American Art Museum reflects a commitment to develop the museum’s time-based media collections, research resources, and programs.
SAAM’s collection includes many remarkable artworks that reflect the profound and longstanding contributions of Asian American and Asian diasporic artists in the United States. The study of this art contributes to a fuller understanding of the diverse people and influences that have shaped our national culture and raises important questions about what is meant by “American art.”