Państwowy Instytut Sztuki [The National Institute of Art (PIS)], a central, interdisciplinary academic-research institute of the Ministry of Culture and the Arts, was established on 30 November 1949. PIS was created through a combination of certain institutions that had operated until 1949: Państwowy Instytut Historii Szutki [the National Institute of Art History] (formerly the Naczelna Dyrekcja Muzeów i Ochrony Zabytków [National Directorate of Museums and Monuments]), Państwowy Instytut Badania Sztuki Ludowej [National Institute for Research into Folk Art], Studium Teatrologicznego [School of Theatre Studies] and the Library of the Ministry of Culture and the Arts.
Initially, PIS was situated in the building of the Ministry of Culture and the Arts, and since 1951 (until today) in the pseudo-historic complex called the Palace of Maria née Lubomirska Radziwiłłowa at ul. Długa 26/28, constructed between 1951-1957 especially for PIS, according to an architectural design by Anne Boyé-Guerquin (which made reference to a late eighteenth-century palace that had burnt down in 1944).
PIS brought together academics and researchers into art, as well as artists from various disciplines. The structure of PIS comprised 6 sections: History and Theory of Art, Fine Arts, Music, Theatre, Film, Rural and Urban Folk Art, as well as the Library, Documentation Archives and a Photographic Section; in general, the same structure has survived until today. PIS publishes eight of its own periodicals. Academic activities mainly comprised collective works, including on the Katalog Zabytków Sztuki [Catalogue of Art Monuments], the Słownik Sztuk Plastycznych [Dictionary of Fine Arts] and a multi-volume synthesis of the history of Polish art. In 1955-1989, the Institute ran the Polish Section of AICA (the International Association of Art Critics).
Since 1959, the Institute, under the name IS PAN, has been part of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Section I of PAN’s Social Sciences). In 1960, the Institute adopted a new statute, stating that its aim was to plan, organise and conduct academic studies in the arts, in particular “research and documentation of Polish art and culture, both historic and contemporary” (IS PAN’s statute).
The first director of PIS/IS PAN was Juliusz Starzyński (1949-1960), followed successively by Jerzy Toeplitz (1961-1968), J. Starzyński again (1969-1974), Andrzej Ryszkiewicz (1975-1978), Stanisław Mossakowski (1978-1999), Lech Sokół (1999-2007) and Elżbieta Witkowska-Zaremba (since 2007).
Many outstanding academics have been associated with the Institute, including: in the plastic and fine arts - Michał Walicki, Roman Reinfuss, Teresa Mroczko, Adam Miłobędzki, Jerzy Z. Łoziński; in theatre – Leon Schiller, Zbigniew Raszewski, Marta Fik, Zbigniew Wilski, Grzegorz Sinka, Stanisław Marczak-Oborski; in film – Jerzy Toeplitz, Aleksander Jackiewicz; in music studies – Józef M. Chomiński, Stefan Jarociński, Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski.