This area of the collection includes a diverse range of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, encompassing ancient Egyptian sculpture through contemporary video art, from 2500 BCE through the present. Most aspects of this collection area are represented in various galleries throughout the museum. Only about 5% of the objects are on view at any one time.
The range of objects lends the collection personality and distinction, and helps to foster teaching in the galleries and creative research. Recent examples include composing music based on these objects; performing dance compositions; and in-depth scholarly studies. Among the many projects inspired by these collections are Stop Look Listen by artists Maria Velasco and Janet Davidson-Hues and Conversations: Art into Poetry at the Spencer Museum of Art by Elizabeth Schultz.
Our strengths include Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art; 19th-century art; our Kress Study Collection; our Gene Swenson, Esquire, and Pierre Daura collections; 20th-century and American art in all media; and textiles, quilts, and decorative arts from a broad geographic area.
We continue to update our collections through gift and purchase, with a current focus on works by women and people of color. Recent major exhibition projects include Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist and Quilts: Flora Botanica.