The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opened in 1936 in the midst of the Great Depression with a mandate from the General Assembly “To promote throughout the Commonwealth education in the realm of art.” The initial gift of 51 artworks by Virginian Judge John Barton Payne provided the basis for the collection that would fulfill the museum’s mission. Throughout VMFA’s history many generous patrons have followed in Payne’s footsteps. All of VMFA’s artworks were either donated to the museum or purchased using private money given expressly for the purpose of acquiring art. Once an object enters VMFA’s collection it becomes property of the Commonwealth and serves as a cherished resource that all of its citizens share.

Over the past 75 years the museum has carefully assembled a collection that now numbers more than 20,000 works of art spanning more than 6,000 years. During VMFA’s 75th anniversary year the museum has organized two exhibitions that are traveling to statewide partners throughout Virginia in order to showcase the history and breadth of the collection. This installation features a selection of works that are featured in these exhibitions.

Sharing works of art from the permanent collection throughout the Commonwealth is a signature component of VMFA’s outreach effort. The museum has taken its artworks to Virginia communities in a variety of ways, evolving from its early history of occasional displays in private and public venues to the year-long exhibitions available through the fleet of Artmobiles that crisscrossed the state. More recently VMFA has partnered with local institutions to provide technical assistance to help them adapt, or sometimes acquire or build, museum facilities that could safely host exhibitions from VMFA as well as from other public and private sources. Last year VMFA sponsored 3,000 statewide programs that served 355,550 Virginia citizens.

Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and curated by Corey Piper, curatorial associate for the Mellon Collections..

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