In 1950, Phoenix attorney Oliver B. James made a significant gift of American and Mexican art works to the university. Over the course of five years, James donated a total of 149 works of art, which served as the core of the University Art Collection.
"We have to justify something besides just an art gallery," wrote the first dean of the fine arts college, Henry A. Bruinsma, of the art donations. "We have one of the finest university collections in the country. It is valuable to our art majors and teachers, as well as to history students."
Originally, the art was installed among the stacks of books in Matthews Center. When the Hayden Library was completed in 1965, the books were removed and the art remained, under the more formal title of University Art Collection.
Rudy Turk was hired as director of the collection in 1967. During his tenure, the collection grew to such a point that by 1978, it occupied the entire second floor of the Matthews Center and was eventually given museum designation. In April 1989, under Turk's tutelage, the ASU Art Museum was opened in the newly constructed, award-winning Nelson Fine Arts Center designed by Antoine Predock. The Nelson Fine Arts Center museum site space consists of five large galleries, storage and processing areas and administrative offices and serves as the primary exhibition space.
Today, the ASU Art Museum is "the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona" according to Art in America magazine. Part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, it serves diverse audiences through innovative programming that is interdisciplinary, educational and relevant.
Visit the ASU Art Museum website.