The museum was founded thanks to the activities of Ukrainian intellectuals at the end of ХІХ century as the first free-for-all Kyiv museum. The first exhibition on the occasion of the ХІ All-Russian Archaeology Conference took place in incompleted building of Kyiv City Museum of Antiquity and Art in August 1899. Official opening and consecration of the institution called Sovereign Imperator Mykola Oleksandrovych Kyiv Art-Industrial and Scientific Museum was held on December 30, 1904.
The National Art Museum of Ukraine has the most representative collection of Ukrainian figurative art in the world. Collection of the museum numbers almost 40 thousands exhibits, among which masterpieces of Ukrainian painting, sculpture, and graphics from Kyiv Rus age to nowadays are represented.
Museum hass one of the best Ukrainian icon collections which opens with the rare object of the 12th century – polychrome wooden relief “Saint George with hagiography” of Byzantine origin. Middle Ages are represented with classic examples of icon painting of 14-16th centuries from the Western Ukraine.
The collection of Ukrainian baroque art is outstanding by its value. It shows the monumental reaching and excellent artistry of the masters of Ukrainian baroque era. The impression of this wonderful age is strengthened by the collection of 18th century Ukrainian portraits which represent the first secular genre in Ukrainian painting.
The age of the 19th century art, when St. Petersburg Academy of Arts was the trendsetter, opens with works of the famous Ukrainian portraitists, who connected their lives with the capital city of the Russian Empire - Dmytro Levytskiy and Volodymyr Borovykovskiy. Taras Shevchenko, the painter, occupies a special position in the history of Ukrainian art. Small collection of paintings and graphic works by Shevchenko gives a vision of his outstanding talent and shows new democratic tendencies in Ukrainian figurative art, continued by the artists of the next generation.
Vivid and original heritage of Ukrainian avant-garde represented in the museum is shown by the works of the world-wide famous sculptor Oleksandr Arkhypenko, painters Oleksandra Ekster, Oleksa Hryshchenko, Oleksandr Bohomazov, and Viktor Palmov.
The museum collection is in formation still, and the trends of contemporary of the end of the 20th - the beginning of the 21st century find their place here.