The NGA was created by Congress in 1937, with funds for construction and a substantial art collection donated by Andrew W. Mellon. The original museum building, now known as the West Building, opened in 1941. Its design is Classical, with gigantic columns and a massive dome reminiscent of the Pantheon. The design of the East Building by noted architect I.M. Pei is austere and geometrically simple by comparison. The East Building opened in 1978. The NGA also opened an adjacent sculpture garden in 1999. As a federally-owned museum, entry to both buildings of the National Gallery is free of charge.
The West Building has an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures by European masters from the medieval period through the late 19th century, as well as pre-20th century works by American artists. Highlights of the collection include many paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and the only painting by Leonardo Da Vinci within the United States.
The East Building focuses on modern and contemporary art, with a collection including works by Picasso, Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Alexander Calder. The East Building also contains the main offices of the NGA and a large research facility.
The East Building of the National Gallery, designed by I.M. Pei