Bold and challenging exhibitions
The Henry is internationally recognized for bold and challenging exhibitions, for pushing the boundaries of contemporary art and culture, and for being the first to premiere new works by established and emerging artists. Through individual experiences with art, we inspire visitors to upend their expectations and discover surprising connections.
The Henry was founded as Washington State's first art museum by Seattle entrepreneur Horace C. Henry, on the principle that art stimulates inquiry, fosters knowledge, and builds a healthy community. In 1926, Horace C. and Susan Henry donated their collection of 152 paintings along with $100,000 to the University of Washington for the construction of the Henry Art Gallery. Seattle architect Carl F. Gould, founder and director of the university's department of architecture, took on the task of designing the museum building.
The Henry opened to the public on February 10, 1927. Seventy years later, in 1997, the museum completed a major expansion, quadrupling its size to better present and preserve its collections and to increase exhibitions and public programs. Internationally renowned architect Charles Gwathmey, in association with the Seattle architectural firm Loschky, Marquardt & Nesholm, designed the new Henry. A site-specific immersive sculpture, James Turrell's Skyspace, realized in 2003, has become a destination for students, residents, and visitors to Seattle.
From its earliest days, the Henry has been known for being first in the region to showcase world-renowned contemporary artists, and first in the field to champion emerging talent. In 1927, the Henry presented the Blue Four (German Expressionists Lyonel Feininger, Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee) marking the first time that daring work was exhibited west of the Mississippi. In the 1950s, the Henry exhibited Mies van der Rohe, Alexander Calder, and Buckminster Fuller long before they became iconic figures.
The Henry has had transformative and lasting relationships with numerous international artists including Uta Barth, Ann Hamilton, Gary Hill, Maya Lin, Kiki Smith, and James Turrell, as well as significant and emerging artists from the Pacific Northwest.
Over the decades we have collected more than 28,500 objects, including new media, sculpture, video, photography, paintings, and works on paper, as well as costumes, textiles, and ceramics. In our Eleanor Henry Reed Collection Study Center — the only facility of its kind in the region — specific works can be seen by appointment. This is a significant cultural resource for anyone seeking to learn from original works of art, and for students and researchers studying at the University of Washington.