In 2000, as the ICA embarked on preparations for a new building, the Board of Trustees voted to become a collecting institution. It was a historic moment for the museum, which had concentrated on temporary exhibitions since its founding in 1936. The decision to start a permanent collection grew out of a desire to anchor the institution and provide visitors with a broader range of experiences. The new collection gives a context to our special exhibitions and allows for in-depth educational materials and programs.

The ICA faced a challenging question: how, with limited resources, to begin an international collection that would be unique and relevant. With the inauguration of our building at the start of a new millennium, we decided to look forward, and to focus exclusively on artists whose work is featured in our exhibitions. In this way, the collection will form an “autobiography” of the museum, preserving our exhibition history as a context for the newest art.

If the ICA had always collected from its exhibitions, we would now have an extraordinary collection of 20th-century art. Inspired by that history, the collection already includes important artists whose work has been featured in recent ICA exhibitions: Laylah Ali, Paul Chan, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Marlene Dumas, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Hirschhorn, Christian Jankowski, Boris Mikhailov, and Julian Opie. Our collection also reflects the museum’s history of introducing new artists to Boston audiences, as Kai Althoff, Taylor Davis, Nan Goldin, Lucy McKenzie, and Cornelia Parker each had their first solo museum exhibition in the United States at the ICA.