About

Mission

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, is committed to preserving and developing its art collection and continuing its legacy of collecting significant art of the time; providing excellence in art historical scholarship, education, and exhibition; inspiring social and intellectual inquiry into the connections between art and contemporary life; and engaging audiences on campus, in the local community, across the nation, and worldwide.

History and Collection

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum dates back to 1881 with the founding of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts at Washington University. Its collection was formed in large part by acquiring significant works by artists of the time, a legacy that continues today. Now one of the finest university collections in the United States, the Museum contains strong holdings of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, installations, and photographs. The collection also includes some Egyptian and Greek antiquities and more than one hundred Old Master prints. Find out more about the history of the collection

Architecture

Originally located in a neo-Renaissance building in downtown St. Louis, in 1906 the Museum collection was moved to the Palace of Fine Arts in Forest Park, now the Saint Louis Art Museum. It remained there until the opening of Steinberg Hall in 1960, which physically linked Washington University’s visual arts departments with the Museum, then named the Washington University Gallery of Art. 

In 2004 the Museum officially became known as the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and became part of Washington University's newly formed Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. The current building opened on October 25, 2006. Both Steinberg Hall and the present-day Museum were designed by Pritzker–Prize winning architect Fumihiko Maki.

In 2017 Washington University began one of the most significant capital projects in the recent history of the Danforth Campus: transformation of the east end. The comprehensive plan includes two changes to the Sam Fox School—the construction of Anabeth and John Weil Hall and the expansion of the Kemper Art Museum—both of which are being designed by architecture firm KieranTimberlake. 

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

The Kemper Art Museum is part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, which was established to link strong studio programs in art and architecture with the resources and programs of the Museum. The Sam Fox School is dedicated to the creation, study, and exhibition of multidisciplinary and collaborative work with an emphasis on fostering creativity and intellectual exchange.

Mildred Lane Kemper

Mildred Lane Kemper graduated from Wellesley College and was a lifelong resident of Kansas City, Missouri. She was a trustee of Wellesley College for many years and had an enduring interest in higher education. Mrs. Kemper was the beloved wife of the late James M. Kemper Jr., chairman emeritus of Commerce Bancshares, Inc., and mother of David W. Kemper, chairman and chief executive officer of Commerce Bancshares, Inc., and vice chair of Washington University's Board of Trustees. Mrs. Kemper was a lifelong advocate of higher education and a patron of the arts. Together with David's wife, Dotty Kemper, and the William T. Kemper Foundation, James and David Kemper named the current home for the University's renowned art collection in her memory.