In addition to displaying a permanent collection of art that spans more than 5,000 years of history, the North Carolina Museum of Art presents a variety of celebrated special exhibitions. Both East and West buildings offer beautiful gallery spaces to showcase the extraordinary objects on view.
In West Building the African collection is unbound, whereas works had previously been grouped according to geographic region and ethnic group. Collection favorites are reassembled based on significance and use, allowing visitors to appreciate universal elements such as power, spirituality, and celebration.
The American art collection encompasses paintings and sculpture from the late colonial period to the advent of modern art in the 20th century. It addresses important themes and subjects of American art history, such as the search for a national identity; the conflicts over race, immigration, and social class; and the rapid evolution of society.
The classical collection comprises works of art from ancient Greece and Rome, including art from two great civilizations: Greek Bronze Age cultures in the Aegean and mainland Greece, and the Villanovan and Etruscan cultures of northwest and central Italy. The collection provides a survey of art covering more than 3,000 years and much of the Mediterranean.
In recent years major acquisitions have helped build a significant collection of contemporary art. Outstanding works include Frank Stella’s painting Raqqa II (1970), Anselm Kiefer’s Untitled (1980–86) triptych, Gerhard Richter’s abstract painting Station (577-2) (1985), Elizabeth Murray’s Pigeon (1991), and Jaume Plensa’s sculpture Doors of Jerusalem I, II, & III (2006).
Although comprising only 38 artifacts, the ancient Egyptian art collection represents the major periods of ancient Egyptian history, from the Predynastic to the Roman periods. The Museum’s oldest artifact is a black-topped ceramic jar that was handmade approximately 6,000 years ago.
The European collection is the crown jewel of the Museum, as was intended from the founding of the institution. Of the 139 paintings and sculptures purchased with the original appropriation, 123 were European. When these were augmented by the 75 European paintings and sculptures given to the Museum by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1961, they created a collection that is recognized as one of the finest in the United States.
The Judaic Art Gallery features ceremonial objects from the major Jewish traditions as well as from modern Israel. Highlights include a pair of mid-18th-century silver and gilt Torah finials (rimmonim); a large standing Hanukkah lamp, circa 1930; and an elegant pair of silver finals and matching Torah pointer (yad) dated 1783 from the Orthodox Synagogue in Plymouth, England.
In 2009 the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation donated 30 sculptures to the NCMA, making it the repository for the most extensive Rodin collection between Philadelphia and the West Coast. Featuring works from all phases of the master's career, the collection offers the opportunity to experience Rodin's formidable genius.
Meymandi Exhibition Gallery is the NCMA's largest special exhibition space and features traveling shows and exhibitions organized or co-organized by the NCMA and major museums across the country. Recent highlights include the inaugural presentation of American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell and the popular Rembrandt in America.
The Joyce W. Pope Gallery provides the perfect space for smaller traveling exhibitions like Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the Creative Mind, Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print, and Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Gallery 3 offers a satellite space for exhibitions in Meymandi Gallery or the Joyce W. Pope Gallery, and also features intimate focus exhibitions of works in the permanent collection.
In rotating solo and group shows, this gallery presents work in all media by both emerging and established contemporary artists who have a strong connection to North Carolina. The NCMA also collaborates with curators from galleries across the state to develop exhibitions that reflect North Carolina's diverse artistic culture.
Over the past 10 years, the NCMA’s photography holdings have grown to nearly 400 works. The Photography Gallery features exhibitions from the NCMA's burgeoning contemporary photography collection as well as special exhibitions featuring the work of national and international photographers.
The NCMA’s newest exhibition space, this gallery is dedicated to showing video and multimedia work by local, national, and international artists creating in this exciting, ever-changing medium.
The NCMA houses one of only 200 extant, complete sets of John James Audubon’s four-volume masterwork, The Birds of America. Beautiful pages in its large books, presenting hand-colored prints of birds depicted life size, rotate four times a year.
One of the first art museums in the U.S. to be partially supported by state government, the NCMA is committed to its Education Gallery, which showcases work by North Carolina’s young artists, preschool through college, who participate in a variety of NCMA programs in public and private schools, such as the Art of Collaboration, Grow Up Great with the Arts, and Teens, Inspired.
Complementing major exhibitions in Meymandi Gallery, Studio 3 is a flexible companion space dedicated to the work of North Carolina teens and college students responding to the NCMA's special exhibitions by creating works of their own.