The Kimbell’s permanent collection is small in size, comprising around 350 works of art, and is distinguished by an extraordinary level of artistic quality and importance. The idea of building a choice collection of representative masterpieces was established by the Board of Directors of the Kimbell Art Foundation in consultation with Museum’s first director, Richard F. (Ric) Brown, in a Policy Statement of June 1, 1966:
The dominating principle involved in the acquisition process is that the stature of the Museum depends more upon the quality of the definitive objects that it contains than on the historical completeness of its collections. A prospective addition to the collections, therefore, is to be judged from the standpoint of aesthetic quality and typicality, and whether it defines a master, period, school, style, or area. The goal shall be definitive excellence, not size of collection.
Leaving to older and larger institutions the role of collecting broadly and in depth, the Kimbell has continued to pursue quality over quantity. Its holdings range from the third millennium B.C. to the mid-20th century and include major works by Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Bernini, Velázquez, Vigée Le Brun, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse. The collection comprises Asian and non-Western as well as European art, and extends only to the mid-20th century in recognition that this is where the collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth begins, and omits American art since this is the focus of another neighboring institution, the Amon Carter Museum.