In 1895, Andrew Carnegie, the Scotland-born philanthropist and titan of the steel industry, founded the Carnegie Institute, now Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, alongside Carnegie Library in a shared building in the heart of the Oakland neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Conceived as a gift to the city and dedicated to the pursuits of art, music, literature, and natural science, Carnegie’s “monument,” as he called it, immediately became one of the most significant cultural institutions in the nation. The Institute is but one of many existing institutions, foundations, and endowments that carry on his philanthropic legacy to this day. Carnegie Museum of Art is one of four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, along with Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. Together, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh strive to preserve and expand the resources of art and science as agents of personal growth and social advancement in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Since 1896, the Carnegie International has been Carnegie Museum of Art’s most significant exhibition as well as its leading contribution to the field. With each iteration, the museum creates new contexts for understanding the art of our time, connecting ever-changing publics with artists who give personal expression to the urgencies of our moment. What began as a juried show in its early years is now an ambitious curatorial initiative with aspirations beyond the museum’s walls. The International’s previous iterations have left an indelible mark not only on the museum and the communities it serves but more broadly on the history of exhibition making. With each International, the museum writes another chapter in that history, transforming our understanding of how cultural institutions create space for meaning and experience.
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Our Collection Grows
The museum, under the leadership of successive directors and curators, has embarked on an intentional and expansive program to broaden its collecting areas by focusing both on the art of its time and important historical material. Andrew Carnegie conceived of an exhibition—what would become the first Carnegie International in 1896—from which the museum would collect artworks instead of enriching the museum with Carnegie’s own collection. Paintings by Winslow Homer, Camille Pissarro, Edward Hopper, and others were the seed from which this incredible collection now has grown. Since then, the museum has acquired hundreds of works of art that have appeared in the exhibition series from artists such as Doris Salcedo, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and many more.
During the 1960s and 1970s, museum leadership conducted a significant campaign to continue growing the historical collection, working closely with philanthropist Sarah Mellon Scaife, and with her family after her death in 1965, to identify a remarkable group of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Building on existing holdings in decorative arts, a gift of some 2,800 objects from the estate of Ailsa Mellon Bruce in 1970 firmly established the museum’s commitment to collecting functional and design objects spanning cultures and time periods.
While the museum has stewarded an impressive architectural cast collection since 1907, it did not begin to grow its collection of architectural drawings, prints, and models from the 19th century to the present until 1993, when the museum founded the Heinz Architectural Center through the generosity of the Drue Heinz Foundation.
In 2001, the museum acquired the archive of Pittsburgh-born photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris, consisting of more than 70,000 photographic negatives spanning from the 1930s to the 1970s. A dedicated Charles “Teenie” Harris Advisory Committee helps identify the photographs along with the help of visitors and community members.
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Our Story Continues
With its collection held in the public trust, the museum stands as an invaluable creative resource for the Pittsburgh region and the world. With each new addition to the collection, we hope our visitors share in celebrating the promise of many possible futures for Carnegie Museum of Art.