Eighty years ago today Congress passed an act to accept a gift of an art collection and building funds to create a National Art Museum on the National Mall. Andrew Mellon, a Pittsburgh banker and Secretary of the Treasury (from 1921-32) had the idea and worked on a plan to create the new gallery and it was his donation in 1937 of his substantial art collection valued at $40 million plus an additional $10 million ($10 million in 1937 equals $172 million in 2017) for construction that was used to establish the National Gallery of Art. Congress accepted his offer and passed the act to establish the museum on March 24, 1937, Mellon’s birthday.
The National Gallery of Art brings wonderful works of art to the public (for free admission) that would not ordinarily be on view. An example is the recent purchase of Gerard van Honthorst’s monumental masterwork, The Concert, that was acquired by the National Gallery in 2013 and went on display for the first time in 218 years.