North Carolina Museum of Art at Raleigh

North Carolina Museum of Art at Raleigh

The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is an art museum in Raleigh, North Carolina. In a large exhibition space with many galleries, it offers lively engaging tours, performing arts and family workshops.

Established in 1947 as the first art museum in Raleigh, it opened its doors in 1956. It was the first major museum in the United States to be funded by the state.

Today the museum houses a collection that exhibits more than 5000 years of artistic works from antiquity to the present day. There is also an amphitheater for outdoor performances, many public programs and events.

Overall, the museum has more than 40 galleries and more than a dozen large works of art, making it one of the leading art museums in the South of America.

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History of the North Carolina Museum of Art

In 1924, the North Carolina State Art Society wanted to create an art museum in the state of North Carolina. In 1928 the Society used monies acquired to purchase 75 paintings which were displayed in a series of temporary art exhibition spaces in Raleigh Farm Buildings.

In 1939, the NCMA moved into the former Supreme Court building. In 1947, the state purchased works of European and American art valued at $1 million for the North Carolina Museum. There were also 71 works, mostly from the Italian Renaissance, donated by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. The collection continued to grow and the Supreme Court building slowly became too small for the many exhibits. A new building had to be found.

On April 6, 1956, the museum opened in the renovated State Highway Division Building on Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh.

A short time later, in 1961, the museum was separated from the art society and taken over and financed by the state. It later became the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Corporation.

In 1983 the museum moved to the site of today’s Blue Ridge Street, the old building had become too small again.

In 2010, a new 127,000-square-foot (11,800 m2) West Building opened next to the East Building. Sculpture was added to the gardens surrounding the building. Highlights include the 30 Auguste Rodin sculptures and works by artists Roxy Paine, Ursula von Rydingsvard, El Anatsui, Jaume Plensa, Jackie Ferrara, Ellsworth Kelly and David Park.

Collection and Galleries at the NCMA

The collections and galleries include works of European painting from the Renaissance to the 19th century, Egyptian funerary art, sculpture and vase painting from Ancient Greece and Rome, American art from the 18th to 20th centuries and international contemporary art. Other artworks come from Africa, ancient America, pre-Columbian art, Oceanic art, and Jewish cult objects.

The different exhibitions are displayed in the West Building and East Building. We have put them together for you here by location:

West Building

Here we have compiled the permanent exhibitions in the West Building for you:


The museum’s African collection was created in the 1970s with historical material from the 19th and 20th centuries. Among them are important elements from the Benin Kingdom. There are also exhibits from other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Traditional media such as wood, metal and textiles are an important part of the collection.


The American Art Collection includes paintings and sculptures from the late colonial period (mid-18th century) to the advent of modern art in the early 20th century. The three impressive portraits by John Singleton Copley are worth seeing. In between, the collection addresses many important themes such as wilderness, national identities, conflicts over race, immigration, social classes and the rapid development of society.


The Ancient American Collection features art from three different areas of the western hemisphere: Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. The focus here is primarily on the art of the ancient Maya. Numerous aspects such as religious belief, sports, rituals and daily life are presented here.


The classical collection includes artworks from ancient Greece and Rome, including art from the Greek Bronze Age in Aegean and mainland Greece, the Villanovian and Etruscan cultures of north-west and central Italy. The collection provides an overview of the art and covers more than 3000 years.


Major acquisitions in recent years have helped build a significant collection of contemporary art. The exhibition in the west building extends over several rooms with modern collections by important artists such as Franz Kline and Lyonel, as well as the first generation of American modernists such as Alberto Giacometti. There are also surrealist pieces by Paul Delvaux and Joseph Cornell, as well as other modern masters such as Richard Diebenkorn, Andrew Wyeth and Alberto Giacometti. In 2003, the museum began actively collecting contemporary photographs. By 2010, the collection totaled over 200 photographs from national and international photographers, including works by Rosemary Laing, Dinh Q. Lê, Vera Lutter and Lorna Simpson.

Sculptures were added, and this exhibition now offers a comprehensive overview of all North Carolina artists.


With just 38 artifacts, the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Ancient Egyptian Art Collection presents the major eras of ancient Egyptian history. The oldest artifact is a black ceramic jar that was handcrafted some 6000 years ago. Another highlight is the presentation of the many gods worshiped in Egypt.


The exhibition of European art includes approximately 139 paintings and sculptures. It is among the finest European collections in the United States. The main attraction are the many remarkable sculptures.

British, Spanish and French Post–1600

This section of the museum features a number of British portraits, most of which are on display in the European gallery. British works by Paul van Somer, Anthony van Dyck, Francis Cotes, Sir William Beechey, Thomas Gains and Sir Henry Raeburn are presented here. Added to this are a French and Spanish collections with portraits and still lifes by Boudin, Millet, Pissarro and Monet.


The museum’s collection of Italian paintings is among the finest in the United States. Many Italian paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries, paintings by Titian, Raphael and 17th century baroque art can be admired here.

Northern European

The Northern European Collection includes Northern Renaissance paintings and sculptures from northern Europe, such as 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings. Among them are works by Hendrick Ter Brugghen, Jan Steen, Jan Lievens, Jacob van Ruisdael, Govaert Flinck, Peter Paul Rubens, Gerard Seghers, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens and Frans Snyders.


The Jewish Art Collection is dedicated to the life and ceremonies of the Jewish people with their ritual objects. Many of the objects are used in the synagogue, observance of the Sabbath, holiday designs or ceremonial occasions. Highlights include a pair of mid-18th-century gilded Torah finials, a large standing Hanukkah lamp from 1930, and many other exhibits.


In 2009, the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation donated 30 sculptures to the NCMA, one of the largest Rodin collections between Philadelphia and the US West Coast. Featuring works from all phases of the Master’s career, this collection offers an opportunity to experience Rodin’s tremendous genius.

East Building

The East Building Museum is primarily used for temporary exhibitions, public programs, and public events. Here we have compiled the exhibitions in the East Building for you:


Meymandi Exhibition Gallery is the area at the NCMA with the largest special exhibitions touring across the country. The American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibition is currently located here (as of 2016).


The Joyce W. Pope Gallery accommodates smaller touring exhibitions such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester and the Creative Mind, Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print and Sculpture from the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Gallery 3 has space in its permanent exhibitions, Meymandi Gallery and Joyce W. Pope Gallery, for additional temporary works.


Featuring rotating solo and group exhibitions, this gallery showcases all mediums by emerging and established artists with strong connections to North Carolina.


Over the past 10 years, the NCMA’s photographic holdings have grown to nearly 400 works. The Photography Gallery features exhibitions of burgeoning contemporary photography, as well as special exhibitions of work by national and international photographers.


The NCMA’s newest exhibition space features video and multimedia works by local, national and international artists.


The Birds of America, home to many of artist John James Audubon’s masterpieces. Especially the beautiful pages in his large books with hand-colored prints of life-size birds are a highlight.


Works by young North Carolina artists, from preschool through college, are showcased here.


Complementing major exhibitions at the Meymandi Gallery, works by young North Carolina artists and college students are on display here.

Museum Park

Covering 164 acres (0.66 km2), Museums Park features more than a dozen site-specific and contemporary works of art with two miles (3 km) of hiking trails. It is one of the largest and most beautiful museum art parks in America.

North Carolina Museum of Art opening hours & admission

The North Carolina museum is open Tuesday-Thursday 10am-5pm, Friday 10am-9pm, and Saturday-Sunday 10am-5pm. It is closed on Mondays and some public holidays.

The Museum Park is open every day, including public holidays, from sunrise to sunset.

Admission to parts of the museum and the Museum Park is free. Admission is only charged for the West Building with its permanent collection. Some special exhibitions and programs, such as concerts and films, require admission.

Visitor parking is free on the Blue Ridge Lot.

Address of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

2110 Blue Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607-6494

North Carolina Museum of Art at Raleigh