“Every student who writes a paper on a Rembrandt etching, every schoolchild who participates in an African mask-making workshop, every visitor who enjoys both the superb Chinese ceramics and the spectacular view of Cayuga Lake from the fifth floor, owes a debt of gratitude to those who have made this collection.” —Hunter R. Rawlings III, former Cornell University President

Since the 1973 opening of the I. M. Pei–designed Johnson Museum of Art—named for benefactor Herbert F. Johnson, a distinguished graduate of Cornell’s Class of 1922 and University Trustee—our permanent collection has grown in strength and significance. Major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the generosity of Museum Members and donors, enabled the renovation and reinstallation in 2010–14 of three complete floors of gallery spaces, providing a fresh overview of the collection and its development. 

Cornell University’s first art museum, the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, opened in 1953. The inspiration to build a museum came from the first extensive gift of art to Cornell, a distinguished collection of three thousand prints—including works by masters of the medium from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries—bequeathed by William P. Chapman, Class of 1895. The success of the White Museum and its recognition as an active force in campus life led to plans for the Johnson, an expanded and purpose-built museum for the university. 

The fifth floor presents art from Asia, across time and borders, from the ancient to the contemporary.

The second floor highlights Greek, Roman, and European art before 1800, as well as Cosmos by Leo Villareal, above the outdoor Mallin Sculpture Court.

The first floor showcases art from the 19th to 21st centuries, primarily from Europe and the Americas.


Explore collection highlights online or visit us in Ithaca!