When it comes to museums in the Pacific Northwest, Portland’s Art Museum is the granddaddy of them all, having opened its doors back in 1892. Through the years, it has amassed a large and interesting collection. Over 112,000 square feet of exhibition space is devoted to only a fraction of the museum’s collection of more than 50,000 objects. The American Alliance of Museums has extended the museum’s accreditation until 2024.
Highlights include Northwest art, Asian art, photography, English silver, graphic arts, and Native American artifacts. Vincent van Gogh’s Cart with Black Ox is a must-see at the Portland Art Museum. Included in the museum is the Northwest Film Center as well as the Crumpacker Family Library, which focuses on the visual arts. Every month on the first Thursday, the museum is open late for free.
The most recent renovations brought the Portland Art Museum’s total square footage up to 240,000, making it one of the 25 largest art museums in the United States. The exhibition area alone is about 112,000 square feet. Over 42,000 pieces of art are housed in the permanent collection, and a major touring exhibition is always on display. There are permanent displays of Asian art, modern and contemporary art, Northwest art, art from the Pacific Rim, and a public sculpture garden located in the museum’s outdoor space. The Portland Art Museum also houses the Northwest Film Center.
The museum’s origins may be traced back to 1892, when it was founded as the Portland Art Association. In the fall of that year, seven influential locals in business and the arts got together to form an association with the goal of opening a first-rate art museum in the city of nearly 50,000 people. One hundred plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were purchased with money provided to the museum by Henry Corbett. The collection’s pieces were chosen by Winslow B. Ayer and his wife while traveling around Europe. Before leaving, curators from the Met in New York and the MFA in Boston gave them guidance on which works to bring. The Multnomah County Library, at Southwest Seventh and Stark streets in the Central Business District, was the first venue to showcase the collection.