The Carnegie Museum of Art is often considered the first contemporary art museum in the United States. Founded by Pittsburgh native and wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895, the museum began collecting pieces with the foundation of the Carnegie International in 1896, the oldest exhibition of contemporary art in North America. He purchased several Old Master paintings and included them in the exhibition. It was his hope that the exhibition would inspire visitors about art and spur the growth of the museum.
The museum holds a collection of more than 35,000 works of art representing a wide range of mediums including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, architecture, decorative arts, and film. Another highlight is the archive of 80,000 negatives by photographer Charles Teenie Harris.
The Carnegie Museum of Art, originally founded as the Department of Fine Arts of the Carnegie Institute, created the first art gallery for the public that opened on November 5, 1985, in what is now the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In 1907, the museum underwent its first major expansion to include the Hall of Sculpture and the Hall of Architecture. In 1963, the museum officially changed its name to the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute and expanded to three times its initial size in 1974 with a second major expansion and the opening of the Scaife Galleries. The museum then opened the Bruce Galleries and Heinz Galleries and changed its name to the Carnegie Museum of Art in 1986.
Current departments include the Heinz Architecture Center, Contemporary Art, Decorative Art, Decorative Art and Design, Fine Arts, Photography, and the Teenie Harris Archive. The museum’s current themes include Contemporary Glass, Teenie Harris Photography: Cars, Ailsa Mellon Bruce: A Legacy of Decorative Arts, The Carnegie International, Japanese Prints, Digital to Daguerreotype, Imagining Home: Residential Architecture, Pittsburgh Artists, Film an video, The Art of the Chair, Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives, Pictoralist Photography, The Early Arts of Western Pennsylvania, Contemporary Craft, Decorative Arts from the World’s Fairs, Installation Art, Painting and Sculpture 1860-1920, Murals, Master European and American Printmakers, American Watercolor, Luke Swank, W. Eugene Smith, Gritty Brits: Contemporary London Architects, and Aluminum.