In 1972 the Gertrude Posel Gallery was established with a donation of funds by Gertrude Posel for the creation of a professional art gallery. The gallery was given a permanent home on the ground floor of Senate House five years later, at which stage a generous gift by Norman Herber of funds for the acquisition of artworks enabled the historical and contemporary South African art collections to grow substantially. At the same time administration of the Galleries passed from the Departments of History of Art and Fine Arts, (then one department), into the hands of the Department of the Registrar (Research), reflecting its broader significance within the university.
For 30 years the Gertrude Posel Gallery showcased the university's temporary exhibition programme of regularly changing student, contemporary and experimental work. From 1992 the lower gallery, connected by a spiral staircase, was reserved for the display of items from the African collection in a series of exhibitions of longer duration. Both areas were environmentally controlled, had track lighting, security and professional staff. The Studio Gallery, a third area across the courtyard on the lower level, was added in 1982 to the cluster of art galleries. This was initially used as another exhibition area but soon became a workshop and extended storage space as the collections expanded beyond available storage provision. The cluster of exhibition spaces became known as Wits Art Galleries, with the Gertrude Posel Gallery name being retained for the original venue.
At the end of 2002 the pressures of the increasing collection, combined with the changing demands of contemporary art practice that required ever larger and more flexible spaces, resulted in the university's decision to close the Senate House galleries and relocate Wits Art Galleries. The new premises for Wits Art Museum are in a prime location in the Wits Cultural Precinct, and once complete will address the spatial and display challenges in an architecturally outstanding and efficiently functioning manner.
Wits Art Museum is currently overseen by a Board of Control chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and comprising representatives from university and broader interest groups. The collection and exhibition programmes are overseen by a Management Committee comprised of internal and external stakeholders. An Academic Head leads the Museum which is run by four professional staff members, and close structural and advisory relations are maintained with departments in the university especially within the Wits School of Arts, the Faculty of the Humanities and the Research Office.