The State Institute for Art Studies is the leading Russian centre of comprehensive research in the field of arts, both Russian and foreign. The Institute was created in 1944 in accordance with the decision of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR; since 1962 it has been subordinated to the Ministry of Culture of the USSR/Russian Federation. Its founders include such outstanding personalities of Russian culture and science as Igor Grabar (who was the Institutes first director), Sergey Eisenstein, Boris Asafyev, Viktor Lazarev, and Aleksey Jivelegov.

The Institute carries out fundamental projects related to the history of Russian and foreign arts, including the publication of the 22-volume General History of Russian Art (since 2000), of complete works by the great Russian composers Pëtr Tchaikovsky and Modest Musorgsky, and of the legacy of the great theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold.. Another large-scale project is the creation of the Code of Monuments of Russian architecture and monumental art. The Institute is involved in a number of encyclopaedic editions and in studies in sociology and economics of art and culture, carries out expert assessments in the field of cultural heritage and contemporary art, participates in the elaboration of Russian Federations legislative acts pertaining to culture. The Institute serves as a base for the Scientific Council for Art Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Institutes members are active as State experts in the field of protection of historical and cultural monuments, as members of the expert councils of the Ministry of Culture, the State Duma, etc.

The Institutes four dissertation councils confer degrees in following specialized areas: theatre; music; visual, decorative and applied arts and architecture; culturology and aesthetics. The Institute trains scientific cadres through post-graduate and in-depth study courses. The Institute realizes a large-scale publishing program; its periodicals include the leading specialized journals Iskusstvoznanie (Art Studies Journal) and Voprosï Teatra / Prostsenium (Problems of Theatre), as well as the electronic journals Khudozhestvennaya Kultura (Art&Culture Studies) and Iskusstvo Muzïki: Teoriya i Istoriya (Art of Music: Theory and History).