Speed Art Museum

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Coordinates: 38°13′4.3″N 85°45′39.3″W / 38.217861°N 85.760917°W / 38.217861; -85.760917

Concept Rendering of Museum Expansion
Speed Art Museum
Established 1927
Location 2035 South 3rd St.
Louisville, KY 40208 (United States)
Type Art
Website Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum, originally known as the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum, now colloquially referred to as the Speed[1] by locals, is the oldest, largest, and foremost museum of art in Kentucky. It is located in Louisville, Kentucky on Third Street next to the University of Louisville Belknap campus.

The museum offers visitors a variety of "art experiences" outside of its collection and international exhibitions, including the Speed Concert Series, the Art Sparks Interactive Family Gallery, and the popular late-night event, Art After Dark.[2]

The Speed houses ancient, classical, and modern art from around the world. The focus of the collection is Western art, from antiquity to the present day. Holdings of paintings from the Netherlands, French and Italian works, and contemporary art are particularly strong, with sculpture prominent throughout.

With a $50 million expansion and renovation project planned through 2016, The Speed Art Museum is currently closed for construction. The new 62,500-square-foot North Building will double the overall square footage and nearly triple the gallery space from the existing wing. The expansion will create a space for larger special exhibitions, new contemporary art galleries, a family education welcome center, 150-seat theater, indoor/outdoor café, museum shop, and a multifunctional pavilion for performances, lectures and entertaining. Additionally, the new Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park and public Piazza will be created for the display of sculpture.[3] During the closure, the Museum has opened Local Speed, a satellite space in Louisville's East Market District (NuLu) for rotating exhibitions, programs and events. Local Speed is located at 822 East Market Street.


The museum was built in 1927 by Arthur Loomis in the Neo-Classical style. Loomis was already well known in Louisville for landmarks like the Louisville Medical College and Levi Brothers'. The original building was designed as an understated Beaux-Arts limestone facade. Hattie Bishop Speed established the museum in memorial of her husband James Breckenridge Speed, a prominent Louisville businessman, art collector, and philanthropist[4] Ms. Speed set up the endowment to fund the museum, encouraging the museum to never charge admission.


1927 - The Speed Art Museum is built. More than 74,000 visitors fill the museum in the first year.

1933 - The museum is incorporated as a privately endowed institution and its board of governors was established.

1934 - The museum received its first major donation, a valuable collection of North American Indian artifacts given by Dr. Frederick Weygold.

1941- Dr. Preston Pope Satterwhite makes a significant gift to the museum - his collection of 15th century and 16th century French and Italian Decorative Arts including tapestries and furniture.

1944 - Satterwhite donates the English Renaissance room, which was moved in its entirety from Devon, England. Dr. Satterwhite's gift necessitated an enlargement of the museum and in his will he provided for the addition that bears his name. Completed in 1954, it was the first of three additions to the original building.

1946 - Paul S. Harris becomes the first professional director of the museum. During his tenure, acquisitions to the collection were made mostly in the areas of decorative arts and furniture.

1964 - Recently donated paintings and furniture from the collection of Mrs. W. Blakemore Wheeler go on view including works by Mary Cassatt, John Constable, Gustave Courbet, Thomas Gainsborough, Paul Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Maurice Utrillo, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

1966 - Charter Collectors Group forms to assist museum in the acquisition of pre-1940 art.

1970 - New Art Collectors Group forms to assist museum to acquire contemporary art.

1973 - The North Wing of the museum opens, giving new space for a theatre, offices, indoor sculpture court, and library.

1977- The Speed celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1977 with the acquisition of Rembrandt's Portrait of a Woman, one of the museum's most significant acquisitions.

1983 - The 1983 Wing opens, designed by Robert Geddes of Princeton. The new wing adds much-needed gallery space for permanent collections and special exhibitions.

1996 - Mrs. Alice Speed Stoll dies, leaving behind an estate that bequeaths over $50 million to the museum. The Speed closes to undertake an extensive renovation and renaissance. Newer lighting, heating and cooling systes, bold wall colors, multi-layered labels about the collection, and the Laramie L. Learning Center, Art Sparks Interactive Family Gallery are put into place.

1997 - The museum reopens.

2012 - The Speed Art Museum begins another major transition with a $50 million expansion project that will create a space for larger special exhibitions, new contemporary art galleries, a family education welcome center, 150-seat theater, indoor/outdoor café, museum shop, and a multifunctional pavilion for performances, lectures and entertaining. The Museum is closed to the public during the construction period and is slated to reopen in early 2016.

2013 - The Speed staff relocates offsite to the downtown Louisville neighborhood of Nulu and opens Local Speed, a satellite space for exhibitions, family activities, programs and special events.

Highlights of the Speed's collection[edit]

The Speed houses a collection of African Art, Ancient Art, Native American Art, American Art, European Art, and Contemporary Art.

Highlights of the collection include works by:

Rembrandt van Rijn Portrait of a Forty-Year-Old Woman, possibly Marretje Cornelisdr. van Grotewal
John Singer Sargent, Interior of the Hagia Sophia

European Painting and Sculpture


American Painting and Sculpture

Contemporary Art

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Speed show expected to bolster local economy"
  2. ^ Speed Museum Brings You Art After Dark
  3. ^ Speed History
  4. ^ Leary, James. "Ghosts, Raspberries, and the Legacy of Hattie Speed" The Speed Member Magazine Fall 2009 p. 3
  5. ^ History of the Speed Art Museum. Louisville, KY: The Speed Art Museum, 2002.

External links[edit]