Established in 1948 in the basement of the former university library, the Georgia Museum of Art has been the official art museum of the state of Georgia since 1948. The museum building includes permanent and rotating displays of art from the museum's collection of over 8,000 pieces. That strength of the collection lies in American paintings of the past two centuries, but the museum also holds a number of important works of European and Asian art. Among the highlights of the European collection is the Samuel H. Kress Study Collection of Italian Renaissance paintings. The museum also works to acquire and borrow works to expand their collection and provide special exhibitions that keep the museum a dynamic place worthy of regular visits.
The museum was founded by Alfred Heber Holbrook in 1945 with the goal of providing a space that would provide art for everyone. Holbrook not only provided funds to staff the museum, but also donated his personal collection. The museum opened to the public in the basement of one of the buildings on campus. Since that time the collection has grown from 100 works of art to over 8000 and now occupies a gallery with nearly 80,000 square feet. The museum serves the public with exhibits and programs, and also trains the next generation of artists and museum professionals through the University of Georgia's programs in art and art education.