The Oldest Museum on the West Coast Displays Thousands of Art Works Portland Art Museum


The Portland Art Museum, the seventh oldest museum in the US and the oldest on the West Coast, features a large collection of a wide variety of different works of art. Thousands of works, most of them gifts from museum founders and community members, are on display. It is internationally recognized and serves over 350,000 visitors each year.

This attraction was founded by seven leaders from business and cultural institutions in 1892 when they started the Portland Art Association. The first collection they purchased comprised of approximately one hundred plaster casts of sculptures from the Greek and Roman eras. This collection quickly gained attention and popularity until it became one of the most important cultural resources in the city. The Association continued collecting works until in 1905 they were too big to remain in the library where they were originally displayed and the museum moved to its present location.

The museum didn't acquire its first original piece of art until 1908. The pieces included Afternoon Sky and Harney Desert by Childe Hassam, an American impressionist painter. It continued to grow until it became one of the leading cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest, and it still continues to grow.

The museum's permanent collection includes 112,000 square feet of galleries, with more then 42,000 objects from a huge range of periods and styles created from ancient times to today. About 90 percent of the museum is dedicated to the permanent collections.

Some of the permanent galleries include: American art, a significant collection of paintings and sculpture in an attempt to overview America's artistic history: Asian art, containing nearly 4,000 object, some as old as 3rd millennium B.C.; European Art dating from classical antiquity to the 19th century; Modern and Contemporary Art, which continues to closely follow the movement of contemporary art; Native American Art, consisting of over 5,000 prehistoric objects from 200 cultural groups; Northwest Art, a regional anomaly setting the museum apart from other museums: Photography, spanning the entire history of the medium but specializing in Oregon and Western photographs; Prints and Drawings, the largest of the museum's collections, and Silver, with over 100 pieces from all over Europe.

A ever-changing exhibit in the muse um is the Dossier presentations, which is dedicated to temporarily taking art from the permanent collection out of the vault and into the galleries for viewers to see and appreciate. This allows the public to discover and admire the museum's holdings when the art in question might otherwise never be displayed. Each presentation is based on a theme common to some of the works, such as an artist, a style, or a medium.

This attraction also participates in ongoing research to identify works of art that were confiscated during the Nazi era in an effort to discover the rightful owners.

Education and Outreach programs are a fundamental aspect of the museums mission. It provides classes, lectures, tools for researchers, community programs, educator resources, and more. By providing all of these learning opportunities for the local community, the Portland Art Museum hopes to educate and inspire a diverse audience about the full history of art.

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