Yale University Art Gallery
museum in New Haven, Connecticut



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Arty Fact

Yale University Art Gallery
museum in New Haven, Connecticut
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1111 Chapel St
New Haven, Connecticut
United States

More about Yale University Art Gallery

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Opened in October 1832, the Yale University Art Gallery was the first college art museum in the United States. 

The museum was originally called the Trumbull Gallery, after portrait artist John Trumbull. Trumbull, a Connecticut native, is best known for his massive paintings at the United States Capitol, including his famous depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1831, he found himself in financial difficulties and offered his private collection of artworks to Yale University for an annuity, thus initiating the tradition of American university museums. 

Approximately thirty years after the Trumbull Gallery opened, Yale University became the first college in the country to offer a fine arts program. Located along Chapel Street, the new fine arts school included plenty of exhibition space, causing a permanent relocation of the university’s collection and the museum’s name change. Now occupying one and a half blocks of Chapel Street, the Yale University Art Gallery features a diverse collection with eclectic architecture to match. The current museum complex was completed in 2012 after a four-year renovation project connected three buildings into one exhibition space. The buildings included the first modernist structure on Yale’s campus, a Beaux-Arts building fit with a tower, and the original neo-gothic fine arts school. By uniting these three very unique architecture styles, the Yale University Art Gallery facade shows passerbys a descent into history foreshadowing what they will witness inside. 

The primary reason the Yale University Art Gallery had to expand across three buildings was its collection. During Trumball’s time, the university’s collection was exclusively American and European fine art which could easily be maintained in one small structure. But as the Western world’s interest in the "exotic" increased, Yale University’s collection began to include global art, drastically increasing the number of works they obtained each year. There came a time where Yale had to either stop collecting or create a proper infrastructure to hold their hoarded art. Since old habits die hard, the university chose the latter and never looked back.

Today, the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection totals over 250,000 works. Between 2018 and 2019 alone, the museum obtained over 4,000 new pieces of art including photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, an oil painting by Guido Reni, and an installation by Korean artist Do Ho Shu. These recent acquisitions add to an extensive list of impressive artworks in the museum’s collection. 

With a high-end and diverse collection, the Yale University Art Gallery reaches a greater student population, which is their mission as an Ivy League teaching museum. Much of the museum’s programming is targeted at Yale students and faculty, but the gallery is not just for the Yalies. The museum is free to the public and offers a variety of workshops and speaker events that anyone can attend. Ultimately, the art museum is an educational way to unite the “town and gown” communities and has become a hallmark of downtown New Haven.

As a New Haven native, I urge you to visit the Yale University Art Gallery and experience the beauty and prestige that comes with being the first college museum. But what to do next? My advice is to continue down Chapel Street to Atticus Bookstore and browse their shelves before walking one block further to Claire’s Corner Copia, the best bakery in town. Once you’re stuffed, cross the street to finish the day with a stroll through the historic New Haven Green. Afterwards, you can confidently say you had a true New Haven experience.




  1. “Architecture.” Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  2. “Permanent Collection.” Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  3. Ezra, Kate. “A Global Gallery for a Global University.” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, (2013): 82-99. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  4. “John Trumbull.” National Gallery of Art. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  5. “Recent Acquisitions.” Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  6. Trachtenberg, Marvin. “Building with Time, History, and Resilience at Yale.” Architectural Histories, 7, no.1 (2019): 10. Accessed December 17, 2020.
  7. “Yale University Art Gallery.” Visit CT. Accessed December 17, 2020.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Yale University Art Gallery

The Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) is the oldest university art museum in the Western Hemisphere. It houses a major encyclopedic collection of art in several interconnected buildings on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Although it embraces all cultures and periods, the gallery emphasizes early Italian painting, African sculpture, and modern art.


The gallery was founded in 1832, when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than 100 paintings of the American Revolution to Yale College and designed the original Picture Gallery. This building, on the university's Old Campus, was razed in 1901.

Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight, was opened as the Yale School of the Fine Arts in 1866, and included exhibition galleries on the second floor. The exterior was in a neo-Gothic style, with an appearance influenced by 13th-century Venetian palaces. These spaces are the oldest ones still in use as part of the Yale University Art Gallery.

A Tuscan romanesque building, designed by Yale architect Egerton Swartwout, was completed in 1928. This building had cornices, a pitched slate roof, and large windows set within stone arches, and was connected to Street Hall by an enclosed bridge over High Streeet. It would come to be called the "Old Yale Art Gallery", in comparison with a modernist expansion added a couple of decades later.

The gallery's modernist main building, built from 1947-1953, was among the first designed by Louis Kahn, who taught architecture at Yale.("Kahn played a major role in Yale's own artistic development. And Yale in turn would give Kahn the commission that transformed his career as an architect.") Although the Art Gallery with steel structure and reinforced concrete may seem simple to the eye, it was designed in a rigorous process. Kahn and Anne Tyng, the first woman licensed as an architect in the state of Pennsylvania and an employee of Kahn's independent practice, "devised a slab that was to be poured into metal forms in the shape of three-sided pyramids. When the forms were removed, they left a thick mass of concrete imprinted with tetrahedral openings." The triangular ceiling of the gallery was designed by Tyng, who was fascinated by geometry and octet-truss construction.

Kahn's addition "was...a box...of glass, steel, concrete, and tiny beige bricks", and had none of the features of the earlier galleries. One critic said that Kahn's building "could have scarcely have been distinguished from a Woolco discount store in a shopping center", and that the interior looked like an "underground parking garage".

In 1998, the gallery began a major renovation and expansion. A renovation of the 1953 building was completed in December 2006 by Polshek Partnership Architects, who returned many spaces to Kahn's original vision. The project was completed on December 12, 2012, at a cost of $135 million, under then-director Jock Reynolds. The expanded space totals 69,975 sq ft (6,500.9 m2).

In December 2011 the museum announced an $11 million gift from alumnus Stephen Susman, to create additional art exhibition galleries in a newly-created fourth floor atop the Old Yale Art Gallery building. The expansion was completed in 2012, and included space for a rooftop sculpture garden.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Yale University Art Gallery.