The High Museum of Art

The South’s premier showcase for the world’s great art is located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta.

When it was founded in 1905, the Atlanta Art Association consisted of a small collection of masterworks gathered from some of the city’s most prominent families. Over the decades, the museum grew: in 1926, the High family, for whom the present museum is named, donated their home to house the growing collection; in the 1950’s a larger building was erected adjacent to the home. A pleasant collection was forming.

Then, in 1962, tragedy struck. A collective of Atlanta’s elite art patrons were finishing a month-long tour of Europe’s cultural capitals in the hopes that the trip could bring valuable insight back home. As their plane was leaving the runway in Paris’s Orly Field, however, it crashed, killing all 130 on board. Many were members of Atlanta’s elite families. The loss was devastating, not only to the arts community but to the city as a whole.

To honor their memory, an outpouring of support ensued. By the late 1960s, the Memorial Arts Center was completed in Midtown; since then, it has been one of the region’s premier destinations for the performing and visual arts — the permanent collection of artwork was housed here during that time.

By the 1980s, the High Museum of Art received its very own building — a Pritzker Prize-winning structure of 135,000 square feet, that today, houses much of the treasures. The 2000’s saw the addition of three buildings, attached to the first, bringing the total footprint of the facility to more than 300,000 square feet. The result is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States.

The story of Atlanta can be found in the establishment of the High Museum of Art. Atlanta was burned during the Civil War, but from the ashes came resilience, as the city was slowly rebuilt into the capital it is today. Those lost at Orly Field will never be forgotten, so long as each successive generation carries on the legacy they started.

Points of Interest

  • Keep an eye open outside the museum — “The Shade,” a statue by Auguste Rodin, was donated by the French government in memory of the victims of the 1962 plane crash in Paris.
  • Inside, the permanent collection consists of more than 15,000 individual pieces in seven categories: African art; American art; decorative arts and design; European art; folk art; modern and contemporary art; and photography. Much of this collection, more than a third, was acquired after the museum announced its expansion plans in 1999.
  • Fans of photography find a sense of kinship at the High. The museum started building its collection in earnest back in the 1970s, before many other American museums dedicated themselves to the medium. Today, the photography program at the museum is particularly renowned, housing the most comprehensive collection of Civil Rights-era photography in the world.
  • The museum is affiliated with the Louvre in Paris and the Smithsonian in Washington, not to mention a number of other institutions across the world. Needless to say, an eternally rotating series of temporary exhibits keep the museum’s offerings fresh (past exhibitions have included works by Da Vinci, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt, Matisse, Leibovitz, Warhol — the list in endless. Keep your eye on their schedule).
  • Admission to the museum is reasonable, with tickets costing $12 – $19.50. But keep the calendar open for the second Sunday of each month, when admission is free.

1280 Peachtree St. NE

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Listing information last updated on April 25, 2024 at 10:45 AM EST.