The Henry Art Gallery

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The Henry Art Gallery, the art museum of the University of Washington, has served the University and Pacific Northwest communities since it opened in 1927. It was founded as the first art museum in the state when business leader Horace C. Henry donated funds and a collection of 19th- and early 20th-century paintings to the UW for creation of the facility.

The Gallery was designed by Carl Gould, a leading figure in architecture at that time, and founder of the UW architecture program (see Carl F. Gould, Architect). The finished museum provided an intimate and elegant setting for the display of Henry's collection and other significant artistic works of the day.

[Illustration of expansion design of Henry Art Gallery.]
  Illustration of Charles Gwathmey/LMN's expansion design of the Henry Art Gallery. Illustration by William Hook.

Over the years, the Henry Art Gallery has gained an international reputation for its exhibitions of contemporary and modern art. For example, the works of multimedia artist James Turrell, painters Manuel Ocampo and Masami Teraoka, painter and sculptor Jim Dine, and sculptor Louise Bourgeois all have been displayed at the Henry in recent years. The Henry exhibitions of After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography, a major exhibition by video artist Gary Hill, and Ann Hamilton: accountings have led to critically-acclaimed national tours.

The Henry Art Gallery was originally designed as the first wing of a larger arts complex, including a second museum building--a vision that was never fulfilled until 1994, when the Henry Gallery Association Board of Trustees and the UW approved a plan to construct a 36,000-sq-ft expansion. The new building, which opened in early 1997, more than quadrupled the size of the museum.

Selected to design the new space was architect Charles Gwathmey, of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, New York, working with the Seattle architecture firm of Loschky, Marquardt and Nesholm. The facility permits, for the first time, the continuous and concurrent display of special exhibitions and aspects of the Gallery's permanent collections. In addition, space is available for art handling and storage operations, collections research, a 154-seat auditorium, a multi-media gallery, a cafe and sculpture court, and a major public plaza serving as the western pedestrian gateway to campus.

[Ann Hamilton's accountings]
Ann Hamilton accountings. Installation View, Henry Art Gallery, Jan. 22 - April 5, 1992. Steel tokens, soot, steel, glass, cast wax heads, canaries. Photo by Richard Nicol.  

The Henry's permanent collection comprises some 18,000 objects in a range of artistic media. Henry's original donation forms the core of the collection, accompanied by an extensive textile collection dating from 1500 BCE to the present. The Gallery also has important holdings in photography, prints, and other works in paper, in addition to smaller collections of Japanese and American ceramics.

Recently, the Gallery embarked on a program to acquire more than 250 key works from what has long been considered one of the most important private photography collections in the world. The core portion of the Joseph and Elaine Monsen collection of photography has a home at the Gallery, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from the Boeing Company. The gift was announced by the UW in January 1997.footnote 1

The Monsen photography collection includes rare historical work from the mid- 19th century, vintage prints by pioneers in the field, and contemporary approaches that explore the frontiers of photography. It is known for its broad range of works that document every stage of development of this artistic medium.

"Photography is one of the defining influences in the art and popular culture of the 20th century and this collection is unique in its comprehensive coverage of the history of art photography," notes Henry Art Gallery director Richard Andrews.footnote 1

  1. "Monsen collection finds home at Henry, thanks to $1.5 million gift from Boeing," University Week, Jan. 16, 1997, p. 1.

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