The Kimbell’s permanent collection is small in size, comprised of fewer than 350 works of art, but is distinguished by an extraordinary level of artistic quality and importance. The idea of building a choice collection of representative masterpieces was established by the Board of Directors of the Kimbell Art Foundation in consultation with Museum’s first director, Richard F. (Ric) Brown, in a Policy Statement of June 1, 1966:
The dominating principle involved in the acquisition process is that the stature of the Museum depends more upon the quality of the definitive objects that it contains than on the historical completeness of its collections. A prospective addition to the collections, therefore, is to be judged from the standpoint of aesthetic quality and typicality, and whether it defines a master, period, school, style, or area. The goal shall be definitive excellence, not size of collection.
Leaving to older and larger institutions the role of collecting broadly and in depth, the Kimbell has continued to pursue quality over quantity. Its holdings range from the third millennium B.C. to the mid-20th century and include major works by Duccio, Fra Angelico, Caravaggio, Poussin, Velázquez, Bernini, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Mondrian, and Matisse. The collection is comprised of Asian and non-Western as well as European art, and extends only to the mid-20th century, in recognition that this is where the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth begins, and omits American art, since this is the focus of another neighboring institution, the Amon Carter Museum.
The Kimbell's select holdings of antiquities range from the Egyptian Old Kingdom of the third millennium B.C. through ancient Assyria, Greece, and Rome, and to the Early Christian Church in the fifth century.
The collection of European paintings and sculpture is remarkably rich in works of the Italian Renaissance, although its fullest and most celebrated holdings are in Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Flemish works of the 17th century.
The Asian collection comprises sculptures, paintings, bronzes, ceramics, and works of decorative art from China, Korea, Japan, India, Nepal, Tibet, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Art of the Ancient Americas
Ancient American art is represented by Maya works in ceramic, stone, shell, and jade; Olmec, Zapotec, and Aztec sculpture; and pieces from the Conte and Wari cultures.
African and Oceanic Art
The African collection consists primarily of bronze, wood, and terracotta sculpture from West and Central Africa, including examples from Nigeria, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Oceanic art is represented by a Maori figure.