Columbia Museum of Art

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Columbia Museum of Art
Columbia Museum of Art entrance.jpg
Entrance pictured in 2019.
LocationColumbia, South Carolina
United States
Coordinates34°0′21″N 81°2′10″W / 34.00583°N 81.03611°W / 34.00583; -81.03611Coordinates: 34°0′21″N 81°2′10″W / 34.00583°N 81.03611°W / 34.00583; -81.03611
TypeArt museum

The Columbia Museum of Art is an art museum in the American city of Columbia, South Carolina.


The building that housed the new museum had originally been erected as the private residence of the city's Taylor family. Situated at the edge of downtown Columbia, adjacent to the campus of the University of South Carolina and three blocks from the South Carolina State House, the Taylor House, through the addition of gallery wings and a round planetarium, was home to the Columbia Museum for almost 50 years.

The art collection that first went on view in 1950 consisted of the gifts and bequests of local collectors. It included ten Old Master paintings, including several executed by Joshua Reynolds, Scipione Pulzone, Juan de Pareja and Artus Wolffort.

This situation changed in 1954 when the Columbia Museum was included among the 95 institutions nationwide selected to receive donations of Renaissance and Baroque art from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.[1] Designated a regional center by the Kress Foundation, the Columbia Museum of Art and Science received, over the next twenty years, a total of 78 examples of fine and decorative art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

1998 building and collections[edit]

Following the opening of the South Carolina State Museum in 1988, the Columbia Museum of Art and Science eliminated its science component to focus its interest and resources to its role as an art museum. Despite the additional gallery space made available by the removal of the science displays and the planetarium, by the 1990s the Columbia Museum of Art had outgrown the old Taylor House complex and the 7,000 square feet of exhibition space it afforded.

The site eventually chosen for a new museum building was at the intersection of Main and Hampton Streets. This location was occupied by two adjacent department stores that now stood deserted. One of buildings was partially demolished to allow for the creation of a public space and sculpture garden called "Boyd Plaza" in front of the new art museum. The structural skeleton of the other department store provided the framework around which the new museum building could be constructed. Designed by architects Bobby Lyles and Ashby Gressette of the Columbia-based firm of Stevens & Wilkinson, the new Columbia Museum of Art opened to the public in 1998, with 22,000 square feet of gallery space with an additional 30,000 for future utilization.

The exterior of the new Columbia Museum of Art building, although contemporary in style, preserves earlier appearance through the use of brick veneer and the entrance portico of the institution's Taylor House past. The brick-paved Boyd Plaza includes outdoor sculpture by works by Henry Moore and Robert Carroll's fountain sculpture Apollo Cascade.

The glass entry doors of the museum open into an atrium which extends to the full two-story height of the building. The roof design, based upon an inverted truss, allows natural light. Since 2010, the entry atrium includes a chandelier composed of bundled strands of red, orange, and gold glass commissioned for this space from glass artist Dale Chihuly. Adjacent to the atrium is a 164-seat auditorium and on its far side is the entrance to the first-floor galleries. Four of these galleries accommodate changing exhibitions and two more display selections of modern and contemporary art from the permanent collection.

The museum's second level contains 14 galleries showing a timeline of history of European and American art from antiquity to the modern era. A small but significant collection of art and artifacts from the ancient Mediterranean world is presented in the first gallery. Included in antiquities presented here are examples of early-Greek ceramics from the R.V.D. Magoffin Collection, a large black-figured Greek lekythos acquired in 1973, the Robert L. Hanlin Collection of 4th-century BC Greek vases from South Italy, Roman glass from the George C. Brauer Collection and a collection of 12 Greco-Roman marble sculptures donated by Robert Y. Turner in 2002. These marbles include a headless standing statue of Hygeia and 11 Roman portrait heads.

Old Master European paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, including art from Samuel H. Kress Foundation are also presented. At the Taylor House, the Kress collection was separated from the rest of the museum's collection; in the new building Kress works are integrated into the whole, aiming for chronological continuity and a more smoothly flowing progression through the history of western art. Artists represented include:

The sequence of the European tradition was interrupted recently[when?] by the introduction of gallery space in which to display Chinese works of art donated in 2003 and 2007 by Dr. Robert Y. Turner. This provides a survey of Chinese art from ca. 2000 BC to 1400 AD (Xiajiadian Culture to Yuan Dynasty) as tomb sculptures from the T'ang Dynasty. European and American paintings, sculpture, furniture and decorative arts from the 18th to the 20th century occupy the remaining galleries on this level. This portion of the museum's collection includes paintings by:

Furniture displayed in these galleries include pieces by Duncan Phyfe, Gustav Stickley and Louis Majorelle; silver by the Hayden brothers of Charleston; stained glass from Daniel Cottier and the Tiffany Studios; and ceramics from Newcomb College. Special collections housed at the museum include drawings from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and Bunzlauer pottery from eastern Germany.

The Columbia Museum of Art has had exhibitions by Jasper Johns (who attended USC from '47-'48 and grew up in South Carolina. He spent several years living with his aunt Gladys on Lake Murray, which is why there's a children's program at the museum called Gladys' Gang) in 2019 and his collection of paintings by modern artists such as Warhol and Roy Lechtenstein. It had an exhibition by Georgia O'Keefe (who taught at Columbia College in late 1915-Charcoal drawings by Georgia O'Keeffe from 1915) in 2016. It's had exhibitions by Matisse, Dali, Norman Rockwell, American Chihuly in '08 (there's a chandelier by him in the lobby), Turner to Cezanne (with Van Gogh) in '09, Monet to Matisse, and a Jackson Pollack mural exhibition in 2019. There was the photography exhibition Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Creating a More Cultured Understanding of Art" in Mack, pp. 3–18 and Marilyn Perry, "Five and Dime for Millions: The Samuel H. Kress Collection", Apollo, March 1991.


  • Charles R. Mack, European Art in the Columbia Museum of Art. Volume I: The Thirteenth Through the Sixteenth Century, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009, pp. 12–14
  • Robert Ochs, The Columbia Art Association, 1915–1975. The Columbia Museum of Art,1950–1975: A History, Columbia: Columbia Museums of Art and Science, 1975, pp. 5–35,
  • Columbia Museum of Art Visitors Guide, published July 12, 1998, as a supplement to The State newspaper.

External links[edit]