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20th Century Art Galleries (Gallery)

The NCMA’s collection of twentieth-century art encompasses works from the early 1900s up to 2000. With a focus on American painting, the collection also includes sculpture, photography, prints, drawings, and works by artists from other parts of the world.

The NCMA was founded with a mandate to acquire historical American, British, and European art through the nineteenth century and did not start collecting twentieth-century art until the late 1950s. Wilhelm Valentiner, the NCMA’s first director (1955–58), established the modern and contemporary art program with donations of artworks from his private collection and outside donors. The twentieth- and twenty-first-century collections are now the largest at the Museum, making up more than half of the artworks.

In these galleries you will see art from the early to mid- twentieth century, including the first works to enter this area of the collection, a focus on female artists, and a rotating gallery that explores the enduring legacy of Black Mountain College, an experimental art school based in western North Carolina from the 1930s to the 1950s.

The story of twentieth-century art continues in a group of galleries featuring mid- to late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century art on the opposite side of this building from where you are now. The twenty-first-century galleries, featuring global contemporary art, can be found in East Building’s entrance level galleries.

Linda Johnson Dougherty
Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art