The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas is the very first modern art museum in the state. Named after the museum founder, Marion Koogler McNay, the property started out as a specially commissioned 24- bedroom Spanish revival colonial house, sitting atop 23 acres of land.

The Founder Marion Koogler, came to San Antonio in 1918 when she married Sergeant Don McNay. Unfortunately, McNay died of the Spanish Flu later that year. Marion then married Donald Atkinson and began her love affair with art in 1926 after having the 24- bedroom home built. She collected over 700 paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries out of Europe and America, the first of which was an oil painting “Delfina Flores” by Diego Rivera. She and Atkinson divorced 10 years later and Marion went back to using her first husbands name, McNay.

Marion McNay died in 1950 and left the property, her entire collection of art works, the acreage of land and a hefty endowment, to turn the property into a modern art museum. The McNay was opened to the public in 1954 and an expansion in 2008 added The Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibitions. This new 45,000 square foot museum added space for major exhibitions, a sculpture gallery, gardens, lecture hall, and classrooms to host educational programs.

The McNay has been able to expand from the original 700 works to over 20,000 today and also includes Renaissance and Medieval art, 19th-21st century painting, photographs, and sculptures, Art of New Mexico and the Southwest, Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, and Jeanne and Irving Matthews Collection of Art glass.

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When the McNay first opened in 1954, the museum was considered a specialty of Modern European and American art that focused on French artists and Post-impressionism. Today, the collection has expanded from 700 to 20,000 pieces of art from areas that include American art since World War II, Modern European and American prints and drawings, and the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, which comprises over 9,000 theatre arts objects focusing on scene and costume designs.

The European collection has work from artists such as Henri Matisse, Amedeo, Pablo Picasso, and Alfred Sisley. Famous names in American art such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, and Paul Cadmus have showings in the American Art Collection. Modern and Contemporary art of the 20th century has sculpture, painting, relief and many other mediums from artists such as Kiki Smith, Whitfield Lovell, and Radcliffe Bailey.

The Theatre Arts collection is comprised of depictions, drawings, paintings, of different theatrical scenes from the 16th century through the present. Henri Matisse has costume designs, Alexandra Exter has marionette dolls, Tony Straiges has dioramas of scenes that would happen in plays to help with staging, that are all featured in this area of the museum, along with many other important theatrical works. Images from Shakespearean plays, Baroque festivals, Broadway, and ballet can all be found in the Theatre Arts Collection.

The Southwestern Art Collection is focused on New Mexico and Native American Folk Art that McNay collected during her summer trips to New Mexico. Many of the Santos, decorative arts, jewelry, and watercolors that she collected came from the Taos Society of Artists. Many of the painting depict Navajo women, landscape, and even a painting by Marion McNay herself.

One of the largest areas of strength at the McNay is the Contemporary Latino Prints. Considered one of the finest collections in The United States, Cesar Martinez, Sam Coronado, Richard Montoya, and Carlos Francisco Jackson, among many others, all have prints on display in this collection.

The Prints and Drawings Collection of the McNay has been recognized for its contribution to the focus on graphics from the 19th and 20th centuries and the sheer quality of the works it has acquired. The French and American prints from the 19th century, along with German Expressionist graphics and post 1960 American works on paper, are particular strengths of this collection that have received much praise from the art community. Andy Warhol, Vincent Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, and Georgia O’keefe are just a few of the well-known artists whose prints are a part of this respected collection.

The French Art Glass Collection took decades for Jeanne and Irving Matthews to collect and even includes a library on the subject. The collection features glass works from 19th and 20th century France and is considered one of the finest in America.

Dr. Friedrich Oppenheimer and his wife donated their collection of Renaissance and Medieval art to the museum in 1955 shortly after the opening to the public. The highlights are sculptures and paintings by Albrecht Bouts, Master of Frankfort, and Taddeo di Bartolo.

The last collection is the outdoor sculpture collection that spans the 23 acres of land that the McNay sits on. Decorated with sloping lawns and wooded paths that journey through the Japanese inspired gardens, visitors can enjoy works by Alexander Liberman, Tony Smith, and Joel Shapiro, and many others.

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There are currently eight exhibitions at the McNay for the 2016 year. Stephen Westfall: The Holy Forest is currently showing through July 2016. This unique exhibition is painting entirely by staff of the McNay under instruction from Westfall and is the fourth installment in the series.

Dressed to Kill: Glam and Gore in Theatre shows until June 5th, 2016. This provacative exhibition explores the relationship of glam and gore in theatre focusing of seduction, style, and fiends. This collection draws inspiration from the permanent, Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts.

My Royal Past: Cecil Beaton and the Art of Impersonation will be displayed through June 5th, 2016 is a black and white photographic journey through a celebrity memoir spoof in the early 20th century. The artist baroness Von Bulop, was a photographer and costume designer.

Greg Smith’s Loop will show all summer through August 28th, 2016 and is a video of the artist’s exploration in risk, invention, and repetition as he sews together multicolored textiles, constructing absurdist designs that can hang from an elevated highway and mount to a car. This performance art piece follows him as he sews while driving in New York City.

Art for the Sake of Art: Ornament Prints from the Blanton Museum of Art is an exhibit of borrowed pieces of jewel-like ornament prints from the largest print collections in the region at the Blanton Museum of Art. This collection is on loan until August 7th, 2016.

Object Romance: Contemporary Approaches to Still Life was inspired by David Ligare’s Still Life with Apples and Vessel, this exhibit shows a new approach to still life created in the 20th century. Although these works may look very straight forward, many of the objects and subjects in the paintings are tilted, skewed, and described giving them theatrical content and symbolic meaning. Object Romance is another summer exhibit that will retire on August 7th, 2016.

Shepard Fairey at the McNay showcases art by one of the most celebrated street artists in America. Fairey designed the famous Hope poster for the Obama campaign in 2008 and many of his other works have prominent social and political messages conveyed through the art. His color Pallet of White, tan, black, and red, with bold repeated words is his signature style and present in all of his works. Visitors can explore this exhibit through September 11th, 2016.

The last exhibition at The McNay, also retiring on September 11th, 2016 is Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland 1861-2008. This collection celebrates one of the most Iconic American theme parks- Coney Island. The collection features 140 works from Impressionists like William Merritt, and modern and contemporary images from artists such as George Tooker, Red Grooms, and Diane Arbus. This collection originally comes from Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Connecticut.

There are currently three more collections that will be making appearances at the McNay in 2016. Parlour Games: Ruloff Kip’s Toy Theatre will be displayed from July 5th, 2016 through February 2017 and is a very interesting depiction of a miniature theatre complete with moving parts, working lighting, and several set drops.

AT&T lobby installation will feature Leigh Anne Lester, who will premiere a monumental assemblage that will be on display from a year from August 2016 until July 2017.

Telling Tales: Contemporary Narrative Photography is a compilation of several photographers who capture stories, whether real or imagined, through pictures. 17 photographers participated in this exhibition with Photographs ranging from the 1970’s to the present time. The photographs will be in color and of a large scale to make it seem like a moment captured in real time to the viewer.


The McNay offers many programs throughout the year including family art time for toddlers, specific free days, Community days, and educational events. They also have one day only exhibits throughout the year and several lectures from artists as well as educators from all over The United States. Several live performance Art pieces happen throughout the year and The McNay is renowned for its annual Spring Party and various workshops.

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837 Austin Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78209, Phone: 210-824-5368