Check out a sampling of our thematic galleries below, or view highlights of the CMA collection.

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Gallery 5 Theme

Art and Identity

"Gallery 5"Artists often explore characteristics that communicate a person's status, personality, and distinctiveness. Gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and heritage can be constructed or reconstructed through the use of color, form, and technique. These attributes determine and contribute to our self-identification within a complex network of social, political, religious, national, and local groups. In addition to representing the people who populate their visual world, artists have the power to express the maker's sense of self.

Art gives us the opportunity to think about individuals who may or may not be familiar to us. Do these pieces articulate a sense of who we are as individuals, as society, or as a nation? 


Gallery 18 Theme

Modern Impulses

Gallery 18Many early 20th-century artists believed that challenging the rigid rules of academic painting was the greatest achievement of Impressionism. The work of Monet and his colleagues suggest that light and color change the permanence of an object right before our eyes. Things in the world, their paintings imply, are not as solid or real as they seem. This attitude was rebellious and modern in its time, and it would have great consequence for the course that art in the Western world would take.

During this same time period, many artists demonstrated an interest in emotion and a preference for subjective interpretation over realistic representation. New types of art including Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism emerged as new materials, new techniques (notably the expressive use of color), and especially new attitudes evolved.


Early modern artists separated themselves from earlier traditionalists, and their work pointed toward and prepared the way for the wildly experimental and often conceptually complicated work of our own time.


On the Road

Sharing the CMA's Samuel H. Kress Collection

European Splendors: Old Master Paintings from the Kress Collection

European Splendors offers a chance to experience old master paintings in full living color. Notable artists include Pieter Claesz, François Boucher, and Tintoretto. 

Having built his fortune through the chain of popular S. H. Kress & Co. five-and-dime department stores, Samuel H. Kress (1863—1955) wanted to bring the riches of European old master paintings to everyday Americans in the midst of the Great Depression. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation later built on this idea by donating artworks to more than 40 museums nationwide. 

In 1954 and 1962 the Columbia Museum of Art received two large gifts of Renaissance, Baroque, and 18th-century art from the Kress Foundation of New York. Thirty of these paintings, representing the 13th to the 18th centuries, are now on an extraordinarily rare tour, making these art-historical treasures accessible to new audiences. 

Exhibition locations include

Albany Museum of Art, Albany, Georgia
August 28, 2021 – December 26, 2021
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah
February 18 – July 31, 2022
Columbia Museum of Art
September 23, 2022 – January 1, 2023
Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock, Arkansas
February 1, 2023 – May 14, 2023

Organized by the Columbia Museum of Art, South Carolina 
With support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York



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