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Our History

ca. 1718

The heritage live oak that shades what is now the Sculpture Garden of the San Antonio Museum of Art sprouts alongside the San Antonio River. 


The Lone Star Brewery complex, with two great towers, crenellated parapets, and outbuildings for cooper and blacksmith shops, bottling facilities, and stables, is built on Jones Avenue.


The Lone Star Brewery thrives until 1917. Declining beer sales due to the growing prohibition movement and the shortage of products necessary for brewing due to World War I bring an end to its prosperity. After the brewery ceases operation, it is converted into a cotton mill. In the years that follow, the complex becomes home to an ice factory, an auto repair shop, a uniform storage business, and other commercial ventures. Eventually, the buildings fall into disuse and disrepair. 


The San Antonio Museum Association establishes the Witte Memorial Museum to house collections related to Texas history and natural history, transportation, and art. The fine art collection would later form the basis of the collection of what is now the San Antonio Museum of Art.


Jack McGregor, the director of the San Antonio Museum Association, discovers the derelict brewery while house-hunting and advocates for the site to considered for an art museum to house the fine arts collection, which was growing beyond the capacity of the Witte. The following year, the association takes a two-year option to acquire buildings in the complex for conversion into the San Antonio Museum of Art.


Following a $7.2 million renovation of the former brewery, the San Antonio Museum of Art opens to the public in March of 1981. Renovation funding was secured through grants from the Economic Development Administration, the City of San Antonio, and private individuals and foundations. A National Endowment for the Arts challenge grant helped establish the operating endowment.


The Museum receives the unparalleled collections of Latin American Folk Art formed by former Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller and Robert K. Winn, establishing it at the forefront of American institutions collecting in this area.


Trustee Gilbert M. Denman Jr. establishes the Museum's collection of Art of the Ancient Mediterranean World with the first of several large gifts of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, forming the basis of what would become one of the largest Ancient Mediterranean collections in the southern United States.


Museum Trustees Walter F. and Lenora Brown begin donating what has grown to over 3,000 Asian objects, mostly Chinese ceramics. With additional later acquisitions, the Museum's collection of Asian art is now among the finest in the nation.


The 7,000-square-foot Cowden Gallery opens to present special exhibitions.


Upon the dissolution of the San Antonio Museum Association, the San Antonio Museum of Art becomes an independent non-profit organization. The Beretta Hops House, the brewery's former cooper shop, is renovated, and the Luby Courtyard opens, an outdoor space for family days and other celebrations.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, a 30,000-square-foot wing, opens to display Latin American art from ancient to contemporary. Patsy and Marshall T. Steves Sr. acquire the iconic Urrutia Arch for the Museum and have it installed it in the Luby Courtyard.


The San Antonio Museum of Art receives accreditation from the American Association of Museums on November 6, 2000. 


In May, the new 15,000-square-foot Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing opens. 


The Museum Reach extension of San Antonio's famed River Walk opens. To accommodate the Museum's new riverfront access, the Gloria Galt River Landing, a shaded pavilion, esplanade, and terrace, is built along the Museum's north side.


SAMA installs the six-and-a-half ton Taihu Rock, a gift from our sister city Wuxi in China. 


The mission of the Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret significant works of art, representing a broad range of history and world cultures, which will strengthen our shared understanding of humanity.

The Museum conducts more than 500 guided tours, serves more than 20,000 students of all ages, and provides approximately 580 public programs each year. Programs include lectures, concerts, films, children’s workshops, scholarly symposia, family art activities, and special exhibitions.