The atrium of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Some of the paintings you were hoping to see on exhibit in a museum are available in study centers. Thanks to the Henry Luce Foundation, thousands of paintings, sculptures, and furnishings that the curators didn’t want to show can be seen inside glass cases within several large museums. Find out which museums have these study centers.


Some of the display racks in the Washington study center

The Henry Luce Foundation gave millions of dollars to establish the Luce Foundation Center in Washington’s Smithsonian American Art Museum and three museums in the New York area: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New-York Historical Society, and the Brooklyn Museum. A number of university museums have followed the example set by these institutions and have made hidden parts of their collections available to students and visitors.

The Luce Study Center at the Brooklyn Museum

The Luce Foundation Center in Washington, D.C., is perhaps the most spectacular architectural setting for the racks of paintings. It occupies 24,000 square feet on the third and fourth floors of the historic Patent Office Building’s west wing. Inside the two floors of shallow, glass-covered displays one can find paintings by Nicolai Fechin, James Carroll Beckwith, Fairfield Porter, Will Barnet, Harvey Dinnerstein, and others.

The New-York Historical Society’s Luce Study Center

Built between 1836 and 1862, the Patent Office Building is one of the oldest public buildings in Washington, D.C. The Patent Office moved out of the building in 1932 and the Civil Service Commission occupied the building for the next 30 years. Congress passed ownership of the building to the Smithsonian in 1958, and the American Art Museum (then called the National Collection of Fine Arts) and National Portrait Gallery opened in the space in 1968.

Another view of the study center at the New-York Historical Society in New York

The west wing housed the Archives of American Art and a branch of the Smithsonian Libraries until 2000, when the building closed for expansive renovations. In 2006, the building reopened with the groundbreaking Lunder Conservation Center and Luce Foundation Center occupying the west wing’s upper floors.


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