From its origins in three classrooms in 1950, the history of the Lowe Art Museum reflects an unswerving commitment to fulfill its mission to serve the University of Miami as a teaching resource, and the residents of and visitors to greater Miami as its major general art museum.
The Lowe's success in fulfilling its mission is confirmed by an extraordinary and ongoing outpouring of support for the museum and its collections. With the gift in 1950 by philanthropists Joe and Emily Lowe, a free-standing museum facility opened to the public in 1952, the first art museum in South Florida. Its 17,500–object collection is one of the most important in the southeast, with strengths in Renaissance and Baroque, American, Ancient and Native American, and Asian art.
The development of its highly regarded collection is traced through sustained support from Miami and winter resident patrons who, from its beginning, have supported the Lowe with major gifts of art and funding. A 1956 donation by Alfred I. Barton brought one of the country's finest collections of Native American art.
In 1954, the Lowe was designated the only Florida recipient in a national distribution of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation collection, and, in 1961, constructed a 2,100 square foot gallery to house the 41 Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures that are the backbone of its Western collection. The Americas Collection includes 2,000 works surveying art in the Americas during the 19th and 20th centuries. The Lowe's Ancient American collection was begun in 1958 but achieved international stature with the gift of 531 works by Robert M. Bischoff in 1984. The Lowe's important Asian collection was built over twenty years with superb Chinese, Korean and Japanese ceramics, painting and sculpture, donated by Stephen Junkunc III, a Chicago native and Miami winter resident.
The Lowe achieved AAM accreditation in 1972, the first university art museum in Florida to do so, and was reaccredited in 1987 and 2000. Also in 1987, the Lowe was designated a “Major Cultural Institution” by the State of Florida. In 1990, the Lowe was elected to AAMD, one of only three Florida university art museums awarded this honor. The Lowe is also a member of the Miami Art Museums Alliance, which aims to ensure that public museums are part of the life of all Miami-Dade residents and visitors and contributes to the community's success.