The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, is among the nation’s leading university art museums. As a teaching museum within a major research university, it serves as a center of cultural and intellectual life on campus and in St. Louis. 

Its mission is to collect significant modern and contemporary art and preserve its collection for current and future generations; provide excellence in art historical research, exhibition, and object-based learning; and engage the campus population, its visitors and alumni, the St. Louis region, and the global art community.

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.

Find out more about the history of the collection >> 


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 2019 Washington University completed one of the most significant capital projects in the recent history of the Danforth Campus: transformation of the east end. The comprehensive plan included the expansion of the Kemper Art Museum, designed by architecture firm KieranTimberlake. The Museum's expansion doubled the building's artwork display space and included the renovation of the lower level and the addition of a Coffee Bar. 

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.

Newman Money Museum

The Newman Money Museum—formerly housed in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and featuring items from the numismatic collection of Eric P. Newman of St. Louis—closed permanently on April 27, 2018. Some items from the museum will remain on campus as part of Washington University’s recently completed Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration. Located within the John M. Olin Library, the Newman Tower will spotlight objects from the University Libraries' Department of Special Collections as well as loaned artifacts and small-scale exhibits curated by students and faculty.