Founded in 1968, the Studio Museum began with a mission to present the work of African-American artists and artifacts of the African diaspora. In the Museum’s early history the mandate to collect was strong, with the idea that for the Studio Museum to have a place in the museum world it had to establish a permanent collection. The Museum was very fortunate to have the vision of the founding directors and curators, as well as the generosity of many artists and donors, with which to begin a collection that documents the achievements of artists of African descent.
The Studio Museum in Harlem’s permanent collection represents more than 400 artists, spans 200 years of history and includes over 1,700 works of art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, watercolors, photographs, videos and mixed-media installations. The collection is a record of the growth of the institution and its activities, including its foundational Artist-in-Residence program. The Museum is also the custodian of an extensive archive of the work of photographer James VanDerZee, the quintessential chronicler of the Harlem Community from 1906 to 1984.
Throughout the Museum’s history we have proudly shown the collection and have been honored to loan works around the country and the world. We are thrilled to be in the early stages of a long-term project to share our collection online and prompt a new era of exploration and presentation.