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The origins of the present museum lie in the first Fine Arts Museum that was founded in 1908 and which opened its doors in 1914 and the Modern Art Museum that opened in 1924. Both museums and their respective collections became one to all effects in 1945, which was when the first, original building was built. The modern, new wing was added in 1970 and profound renovations and improvements in 2001 have given the museum its current appearance.
With the slogan of "100 Years of History, 10 Centuries of Art", the Fine Arts Museum of Bilbao celebrated its first Centennial in 2008.
Over its entire life, the museum has developed an exemplary model in which the general public, local artists and public institutions have all determined its configuration and growth thanks to important purchases and donations of works of art that have made up the main nuclei and later growth of the Museum Collection.