What Is the Birmingham Museum of Art?

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  • Written By: David Bishop
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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The Birmingham Museum of Art is a public institution in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, the state's largest city. This museum houses several notable art collections from different time periods and geographical locations. Visitors can view more than 24,000 items from various cultures around the world. Over the years, the museum has presented a number of important touring exhibitions for visitors from around the southeastern United States. The museum also plays host to several cultural programs, including concerts, lectures and educational tours.

Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art was originally housed in Birmingham's City Hall. Its home as of 2011 was opened in 1959, after which it saw several expansions and renovations. As of 2011, it consists of a three-story structure and a 30,000-square-foot (roughly 2,789 square meters) sculpture garden. The museum is at 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd., slightly north of Linn Park in downtown Birmingham.

Several significant collections are housed within the Birmingham Museum of Art. At least 29 pieces from the Kress Collection of Italian Renaissance paintings have been part of the museum since 1952. Other early pieces include works from China and Japan, and those collections have been expanded to include more than 4,000 pieces of Asian art.


Later donations of decorative art from Europe formed the basis for one of the world's largest collections of Wedgwood ceramics. The museum's decorative arts collection is home to more than 16,000 pieces dating from the Renaissance to contemporary times. The pieces involve a range of mediums, from the aforementioned ceramics to glass and iron. Furniture also falls into this category.

The museum also is home to a collection of 18th century French paintings, as well as African, Pre-Columbian and Native American art collections. The facility's American art collection features a wealth of Alabama art by both trained artists and folk artists. That collection spans a range of media, from traditional paintings and sculpture to a significant number of Southern quilts.

The Birmingham Museum of Art was renovated and re-opened in 1993, and since has played host to several notable touring exhibitions. In 1996, The First Emperor exhibition, which allowed visitors to view early Chinese works, included several life-size terracotta figures that were buried along with the first emperor of China. The museum's 50th birthday was celebrated with an exhibition of works by Henri Matisse. Later exhibitions include archeological items recovered from Pompeii and a selection of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.


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