Founded in 1927, it is the first public art museum in the state of Washington. The museum was created by Horace C. Henry, a Seattle builder and philanthropist, who donated his collection of primarily late-19th- and early-20th-century French and American landscapes along with a monetatary donation for the construction of the building.
The art gallery underwent a major refurbishment in 1997, which quadrupled the size of the museum from 10,000 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet. The Gothic-red brick building was conjoined with a new modernist three-level structure, the Faye G. Allen Center for the Visual Arts.
The altered layout has a 154-seat auditorium, a multi-media gallery, cafe, and bookstore, and sculpture court, along with additional space for art handling and storage, and collections research. An architectural collage of glass, textured stainless steel, and cast stone, designed by Charles Gwathmey, compliments the original red brick collegiate-Gothic structure, designed by university architect Carl Gould.
The gallery has built a reputation for innovative programming, educational opportunities, and a diverse film and lecture series. The museum serves as a bridge of understanding between the university and the local community, as well as with students and faculty of the university. The rich academic culture of the university and the blended arts culture of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are juxtaposed here.
The gallery's permanent collection of more than 20,500 objects includes late-19th- and 20th-century paintings, the extensive Monsen Collection of Photography, and a textile and costume collection, along with a burgeoning collection of vanguard works in new media.
The surprising design of the exhibition encourages viewers to enjoy individual objects, to explore a chronological sweep from around 1825 to the present, or to compare diverse works in a dynamic mix.The exhibitions conducted by the museum attain a wide range of public attention. These exhibitions bring important work of art to Seattle from around the world. The gallery exhibits often relate to current social issues and offer many curriculum connections for academic purposes.
The gallery is well-supported by the Boeing Company, which believes art is an important part of life of a healthy community.
The Henry Art Gallery continues to engage diverse audiences in the powerful experience of artistic invention and serves as a catalyst for the creation of new work that inspires and challenges.