Although the University began to acquire works of art from its opening as University College, Dundee in 1883, the collection really took off in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to bequests from former students James Nicoll and James Lamb. A period of active collecting (mostly of Scottish art from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) followed in the 1970s.
Over the years various other institutions have become part of the University and their art collections accessioned accordingly, including Dundee Dental School, Dundee College of Education and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (whose substantial collection is described separately, though works by some of its staff and graduates feature in other parts of the collection). Various other donations and bequests have added to the collections, most notably that of former Art College lecturer Alan Woods in 2000. Although the University has no permanent museum and art gallery, its collections are displayed throughout the campus and in dedicated exhibition spaces in the Tower Building.