Collection Theme

The Carnegie International

When Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institute in 1895, one of his boldest ambitions was to create a museum of modern art—something that had not yet been achieved in the United States.

The series of contemporary art exhibitions he established the following year, now known as the Carnegie International, became the linchpin of his plan. Through these exhibitions, Carnegie sought to educate and inspire audiences, promote international understanding of art, attract the art world to Pittsburgh, and above all, to build a collection through the purchase of works by the “Old Masters of tomorrow” who would be represented in the exhibitions. Today, the Carnegie International, which occurs every three to five years,is the oldest exhibition of international contemporary art in North America, and the second oldest in the world. 


With the first exhibition came the acquisition of Winslow Homer’s The Wreck (1896) and James A. McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate (1884), the first Whistler painting to be acquired by an American museum. More than 100 years later, the Carnegie Museum of Art has acquired more than 300 works through the Internationals. Works acquired out of the 56 Internationals to date are regularly rotated into the museum’s permanent collection galleries.