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.
Museum building was constructed under the project of Moscow architect Petro Boitsov in neo-classic style. This project was updated and implemented by Kyiv architect Vladyslav Horodetskiy. Sculpture decoration of the frontispiece is performed by Elio Salia.
In 1919 after the nationalization museum was called the First State, from 1924 – Taras Shevchenko All-Ukrainian Historical Museum, from 1936 – the State Ukrainian Museum, from 1939 – The State Museum of Ukrainian Art. During the Germany occupation of Kyiv in 1942 the museum was integrated with the Russian art collection under the common name the State Museum of East European Art, in 1944 the previous museum status was renewed. Changes of the museum names reflected the complicated life processes in the country and certain stages of Ukrainian museum work restoration. For example, the name changing shows the changes of museum collection’s profile and separation of certain parts of this collection for establishment of other Kyiv museums.
The last name of this institution is the National Art Museum of Ukraine, it arose in 1994 in the independent Ukrainian state and it proved the highest museum status as the leading collection of Ukrainian art, which still remains the spiritual treasury of country, its pride and wealth.