Collection
  • Photo by Peter Paul GeoffrionafricanThe Nasher Museum's African holdings number around 300 objects, with strengths in works from Nigeria, particularly from the Yoruba peoples and a group of 172 rare masks and objects from Liberia donated to Duke in 1974 by Dr. George Harley, a Duke-trained physician, missionary and anthropologist, who was one of the first persons to collect masks and objects of the Mano and to bring them out of Africa beginning in the 1920's. His influential articles published in the Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, "Notes on the Poro in Liberia" (1941) and "Masks as Agents of Social Control in Northeast Liberia" (1950) remain standard references. The Duke University Special Collections Library is the repository of Harley's archival papers, dating from 1925-1960, which document his experiences in Africa.
  • © Bellows Family Trust. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.americanThe Nasher Museum owns a representative group of works by Hudson River School painters and other nineteenth-century American landscape painters, one painting and 185 wood engravings by Winslow Homer, and works by many of the Ashcan School artists. This collection has significantly grown thanks to a gift in 2010 from a Duke Alumnus that includes works by Edward Potthast, Charles Burchfield, Thomas Hart Benton and Andrew Wyeth.
  • Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrionantiquities

    The Duke Classical Collection, begun in 1964 by Duke University's Department of Classical Studies, combined with the Nasher Museum's holdings now comprises over 300 works from Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Etruria that span in date from 2800 BCE to 300 CE. In 2006, the Nasher Museum was given an important collection of 224 Greek works, mostly ceramics, but also bronze, gold, amber and a few small marble pieces, ranging from the Cycladic and Mycenaean periods to the Hellenistic Greco-Roman era.



    The Duke Classical Collection was published in 1994 by Duke Classics professor Keith Stanley (A Generation of Antiquities: The Duke Classical Collection 1964-1994, now accessible online). The catalogue for the 2006 gift, titled The Past is Present and edited by Duke Professors Sheila Dillon and Carla Antonaccio, was published in November 2011 and is currently available for purchase in the Nasher Museum store or from Duke Press.

  • Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrionart of the americasThe ancient American holdings of 3,300 objects encompass nearly every culture of pre-Columbian Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, and represents a wide range of chronological periods, with over a hundred pieces dating as early as the first millennium BCE.

    The collection consists mainly of ceramics and painted pottery, but includes some examples of sculpture, painted wall fragments, textiles, gold and jade items, body ornaments, and a selection of musical instruments. Strongest in Mayan art, the museum also owns an impressive group of over 175 Peruvian textiles, several as early as 600-300 BCE, as well as early ceramics from Moche, Paracas and Nasca cultures in Peru.
  • asianThe museum holds a small collection of traditional Asian art. In 1973, Col. and Mrs. Van R. White donated a group of Ming and Qing Dynasty jades and porcelains, which forms the core of the Asian collection. Twelve Japanese wood block prints are from the Edo period by well-known artists such as Utamaro, Hiroshige and Hokusai, among others. The collection includes a 19th-century Indian miniature and several Arabic illustrated manuscript pages. Recently, the museum has acquired works by contemporary Chinese artists, including Hong Lei and Zhang Dali.
  • europeanThe Nasher Museum's collection of European art contains a small group of approximately 175 paintings and sculptures from the early Renaissance to the Modernist period. Strengths of the collection include European Baroque and 18th century French art. The European paintings and sculptures complement the Brummer collection of medieval art, and are regularly used in teaching.
  • medievalThe museum's significant Medieval and Renaissance holdings have been described as the "best university medieval collection in America" (Charles Little, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and "one of the six best medieval collections overall in America" (Neil Stratford, Keeper Emeritus of Medieval and Later Antiquities, British Museum). Duke University's original Museum of Art was founded with the acquisition of medieval works from the estate of Ernest Brummer in 1966. Expanded since then, the collection now numbers nearly 300 works from across Europe, ranging in date from the 9th-17th centuries, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods. It includes sculptures in stone, bronze, wood, and ivory, significant architectural fragments, stained glass, leather, textiles, and illuminated manuscript pages and a full illuminated book of hours.
  • © Isaac Julien. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.modern & contemporaryThis collection is the youngest at the Nasher Museum, but represents the museum's current primary growth area. Since opening in 2005, the Nasher Museum has focused on modern and contemporary art with particular emphasis on global, emerging artists of color. The collection strategically echoes the museum's distinguished exhibition program, capitalizes on the expertise of curatorial staff and Duke faculty, and reflects the museum's interest in the art and culture of the African diaspora. The collection includes works in a variety of media-painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video and installation.
  • © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.photography
  • © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.recent acquisitions
  • © Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.russianFrom 1992 to 2003, the museum built a significant collection of modern and contemporary paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by Russian artists. The concentration on post-Soviet works by Russian émigrés makes it a unique collection in the U.S. The collection includes pre-Soviet era, Soviet era, and works by both state-recognized and non-conformist artists. The largest component of the collection consists of second-generation non-conformist artists from the Brezhnev era into the post-Soviet period, including artists such as Komar and Melamid. The collection is currently undergoing scholarly evaluation.
  • © Brodsky and Utkin. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York / www.feldmangallery.com. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.works on paperThe works on paper collection numbers over 3000 works. Most are prints with a small number of drawings and photographs.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University owns more than 10,000 works of art. As part of its mission, the Nasher Museum created this online database to make its collections accessible to a wide audience. This is an ongoing project, so please check back periodically to browse new entries.

The Nasher Museum's permanent collection is strong in four core areas:

  • Medieval art
  • Art of the Americas (largely pre-Columbian)
  • Classical Antiquities
  • Modern and international contemporary art, with a concentration in art from the African diaspora

Other collections include:

  • Traditional African art
  • European and American Art pre 1945
  • Asian art
  • Russian art

The Nasher Museum was founded in 1969 as the Duke University Museum of Art with the acquisition of 200 medieval works from the Ernest Brummer Collection. In 2005, the museum opened a new 65,000-square-foot facility designed by Rafael Viñoly and was renamed the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, in honor of the late Raymond D. Nasher, Duke alumnus, collector and benefactor.

The Nasher Museum holds one of the best collections of medieval art among North American university museums. It is also one of the few institutions to focus on significant purchases of works by contemporary artists of African descent, which capitalizes on curatorial and faculty expertise.

In the galleries, rotating installations from our permanent collection feature selections of contemporary art, Outsider art, classical antiquities, European medieval art, European and American paintings, African art and ancient American (Pre-Columbian) art. Visit our current exhibitions pages to find out what is on view.

Funding for the Nasher Museum's eMuseum project has been provided by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.