The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the major U.S. art museums, with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all corners of the world. The museum stands in Forest Park, where it is visited by up to 500,000 people every year. Admission is free thanks to a subsidy from the City of St.Louis.
In addition to the featured exhibitions, the museum offers rotating exhibitions and installations. These include the Currents series, which features contemporary artists, as well as regular exhibitions of new media art and works on paper.
The museum was founded in 1879 as the Saint Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, which was a part of the Washington University in St.Louis. The museum moved after the 1904 World's Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, to the Palace of Fine Arts, which was built for the fair from 1902 to 1903. The building was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who took inspiration from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy.
In 1908, the museum's first director, Halsey Cooley Ives, arranged for a municipal tax to support the museum. The following year, the museum separated from Washington University and was renamed the City Art Museum.
The collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum contains more than 30,000 artworks dating from antiquity to the present.
The modern art collection includes works by European masters such as Matisse, Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, Giambattista Pittoni and Van Gogh. The museum's particularly strong collection of 20th-century German paintings includes the world's largest Max Beckmann collection. In recent years, the museum has been actively acquiring post-war German art to complement its Beckmann's, such as works by Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Martin Kippenberger, and others.
The collections of Oceanic and Mesoamerican works, as well as handwoven Turkish rugs, are among the finest in the world. The museum holds the Egyptian mummy Amen-Nestawy-Nakht, and two mummies on loan from Washington University. Its collection of American artists includes the largest U.S.-museum collection of paintings by George Caleb Bingham.
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