High Museum

High Museum

High Museum of Art
Established 1905[1]
Location 1280 Peachtree Street NE

33°47′26″N 84°23′07″W / 33.79051°N 84.38517°W / 33.79051; -84.38517

Type Art museum
Director Michael E. Shapiro (2000- )[2]
Public transit access Arts Center station

The High Museum of Art (colloquially the High), located in Atlanta, is the leading art museum in the Southeastern United States. Located on Peachtree Street in Midtown, the city's arts district, the High is a division of the Woodruff Arts Center. In 2010 it had 509,000 visitors, 95th among world art museums.[3]


The Museum was founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association. In 1926, the High family, for whom the museum is named, donated their family home on Peachtree Street to house the collection following a series of exhibitions involving the Grand Central Art Galleries organized by Atlanta collector J. J. Haverty. Many pieces from the Haverty collection are now on permanent display in the High. A separate building for the Museum was built adjacent to the family home in 1955.

On June 3, 1962, 106 Atlanta arts patrons died in an airplane crash at Orly Airport in Paris, France, while on a museum-sponsored trip. Including crew and other passengers, 130 people were killed in what was, at the time, the worst single plane aviation disaster in history.[4] Members of Atlanta's prominent families were lost including members of the Berry family who founded Berry College. During their visit to Paris, the Atlanta arts patrons had seen Whistler's Mother at the Louvre.[5] In the fall of 1962, the Louvre, as a gesture of good will to the people of Atlanta, sent Whistler's Mother to Atlanta to be exhibited at the Atlanta Art Association museum on Peachtree Street.[6]

To honor those killed in the 1962 crash, the Atlanta Memorial Arts Center was built for the High. The French government donated a Rodin sculpture The Shade to the High in memory of the victims of the crash.[7]

In 1983, a 135,000-square-foot (12,500 m2) building designed by Richard Meier opened to house the High Museum of Art. Meier won the 1984 Pritzker Prize after completing the building. The Meier building was funded by a $7.9 million challenge grant from former Coca-Cola president Robert W. Woodruff matched by $20 million raised by the Museum. Meier's highly sculptural building has been criticized as having more beauty than brains. For example, the lobby, a giant cylinder in the middle of the buildings cutaway cube has almost no exhibition space, and columns throughout the interior severely restricted the way curators could display large works of modern art. [8] At 135,000 square feet, the Meier building had room to display only about 3 percent of the museum's permanent collection.[8]

The Meier building, now the Stent Family Wing, was termed Director Gudmund Vigtel's “crowning achievement” by his successor Michael Shapiro. During Vigtel’s tenure 1963-1991, the size of the museum's permanent collection tripled, endowment and trust funds of more than $15 million were established, the operating budget increased from $60,000 to $9 million and the staff expanded from four to 150.[9]

In 2002, three new buildings designed by Renzo Piano more than doubled the Museum's size to 312,000 square feet (29,000 m2), at a cost of $124 million.[10] The Piano buildings were designed as part of an overall upgrade of the entire Woodruff Arts Center complex. All three new buildings erected as part of the expansion of the High are clad in panels of aluminum to align with Meier’s original choice of a white enamel façade. Piano’s design of the new Wieland Pavilion and Anne Cox Chambers Wing features a special roof system of 1,000 light scoops that capture northern light and filter it into the skyway galleries.

When the museum needed more exhibition space for contemporary art, trustee John Wieland purchased a condominium across the street. Its second floor will serve as a 15,000-square-foot Kunsthalle-like space, designed by David Chipperfield as an extension of the museum programming as well as an area for displaying the Wieland family's own collection. The Wieland's foundation will fully fund it for 10 years, after which time the museum has the option to buy it for a dollar.[11]


The High Museum holds more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection. More than one-third of the High's collection was acquired after the museum announced its plans for expansion in 1999.[8] Included in this collection are 19th- and 20th-century American art; European art; decorative arts; modern and contemporary art and photography. Highlights of the permanent collection include works by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Claude Monet, Martin Johnson Heade, Dorothea Lange, Clarence John Laughlin, and Chuck Close. In 1958, 29 Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation were donated, establishing the core of the High’s European art collection. Highlights of the Kress gift include Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child, Tommaso del Mazza’s Madonna and Child with Six Saints and Tiepolo’s Roman Matrons Making Offerings to Juno (c. 1745-50).

The High places special emphasis on supporting and collecting works by Southern self-taught artists, such as Howard Finster, and includes a contextual installation of sculpture and paintings from his Paradise Gardens. The Museum includes a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of self-taught art, a distinction unique among North American museums. The High’s Media Arts department produces an annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic film.


Special exhibitions at the High feature strong global partnerships with other museums such as the Louvre and with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Opificio delle pietre dure in Florence. In 2008, the museum inked an US$18 million deal for Louvre Atlanta, a three-year revolving loan of art from the Musée du Louvre in Paris, resulting in the museum’s highest attendance ever.[10] Its most popular individual show was 2009's Louvre Atlanta: the Louvre and the Masterpiece. Negotiations are also taking place with Metropolitan Museum of Art for possible major loans.[12]

The Museum is also a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.[13]

Selected exhibitions

  • October 2007-September 2008: Louvre Atlanta: The Louvre and the Ancient World
  • October 2007-May 2008: Louvre Atlanta: Eye of Josephine
  • December 2007-August 2008: Street Life: American Photographs form the 1960s and 70s
  • May 2008 - August 2008: Young Americans: Photographs by Sheila Pree Bright
  • June 2008 - September 2008: Louvre Atlanta: Houdon at the Louvre: Masterworks of the Enlightenment
  • June 2008 - October 2008: Road to Freedom: Photographs from the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968
  • June 2008 - October 2008: After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy
  • November 2008: The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army
  • 2008: Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • 2008: Louvre Atlanta: The Louvre and the Masterpiece
  • 2008: The Treasure of Ulysses Davis
  • April 2009: Anthony Ames, Architect: Residential Landscapes
  • October 2009 - February 2010: Leonardo da Vinci: The Hand of the Genius
  • 2009: Monet "Water Lilies" Exhibit
  • March 2010 - June 2010: The Allure of the Automobile
  • August 2010 - January 2011: Dali: The Late Work
  • October 15, 2011 - April 29, 2012: Picasso to Warhol - modern art including Picasso, Pollock, Matisse, Mondrian, and Warhol.
  • February 2013 - May 2013: Frida and Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting – featuring art from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
  • June 2013 - September 2013: The Girl with the Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis – featuring art from Vermeer and Rembrandt


External links

  • High Museum of Art official website