Main Building

Opened in 1987 and designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the main building houses art from the prehistoric to the present day. Exhibited in sky-lit galleries, the collection continues to grow. Paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, prints, works on paper, photographs, and rare books are on view. Permanent collection galleries feature ancient and Byzantine art, Surrealism, Modern and Contemporary art, African art, Pacfic Islands art, and art of the Americas and Pacific Northwest.

The building’s cypress siding, steel, and glass are in harmony with its residential neighborhood and defer to the art on display. Piano’s design captured Dominique de Menil’s vision of a museum that seems “small on the outside but large inside,” with 30,000 square feet of gallery space illuminated by natural light.

In addition to the gallery spaces, the building makes visible the framing studio, conservation laboratory, and library, seen on the south, east, and west sides of the building.

“I came up with a concept … we would rotate the works of art … The public would never know museum fatigue. Works would appear, disappear, and reappear like actors on a stage. Each time they would be seen with a fresh eye.” —Dominique de Menil