The National Art Museum was established in the premises of the historic Singh Dhwakha (Lion’s Gate) Palace at the Bhaktapur Durbar Square by the Archaeological Department of the Government of Nepal in July 1960. This portion of the Bhaktapur royal palace was built by King Bhupatindra Malla, the renowned patron of arts and culture in 1697. Either side of the entrance to the palace stands exquisite stone sculptures of the deity Hanu-Bhaurav and Nrisingha. Guarding these sculptures stands a pair of huge stone lions which gave the name of Singh Dhwakha for the palace.
The museum was named the National Picture Gallery during its inauguration by the then Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala and entrusted to conserve, collect and promote the original Nepali paintings. At present the gallery is renamed the National Arts Museum with the addition of three separate wings for stone sculptures, woodcrafts and metal artefacts. The museum is unique in providing public access to the exhibits of rare original paintings, woodcrafts, stone sculptures and metal artifacts.