Founded in 1903 as the Germanic Museum, the Busch–Reisinger Museum is the only museum in North America dedicated to the study of art from the German-speaking countries of Central and Northern Europe in all media and in all periods. William James spoke at its dedication. Its holdings include signiﬁcant works of Austrian Secession art, German expressionism, 1920s abstraction, and material related to the Bauhaus design school. Other strengths include late medieval sculpture and 18th-century art. The museum also holds noteworthy postwar and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe, including works by Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of works by Joseph Beuys.
The Busch-Reisinger Art Museum has oil paintings by these painters: Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Max Ernst, Ernst Ludwig Kirschner, Franz Marc, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Emil Nolde, Erich Heckel, Heinrich Hoerle, Georg Baselitz, László Moholy-Nagy, and Max Beckmann. It has sculpture by Alfred Barye, Kathe Kollewitz, George Minne, and Emil Barlach.
From 1921-1991, the Busch-Reisinger was located in Adolphus Busch Hall at 29 Kirkland Street. The Hall continues to house the Busch-Reisinger's founding collection of medieval plaster casts and an exhibition on the history of the Busch–Reisinger Museum; it also hosts concerts on its Flentrop pipe organ. In 1991, the Busch-Reisinger moved to the new Werner Otto Hall, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, at 32 Quincy Street.
In 2008, the 32 Quincy Street building that formerly housed the Fogg Museum and the Busch–Reisinger Museum closed for a major renovation project to create a new museum building designed by architect Renzo Piano that would house all three museums in one facility. During the renovation, selected works from all three museums were on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The combined, renovated, and expanded facility reopened in 2014 under the name "Harvard Art Museums".