With its holdings of over 600,000 volumes, among them the publications on modern and contemporary art donated by Duke Franz of Bavaria, around 1,150 current periodicals and over 65,000 auction catalogues, it counts among the largest art libraries internationally.

The collection profile of the library covers all art history in the western hemisphere, from the early medieval period to the present.

The collection has the following special focuses, which were supported by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) from 1972 to 2010 within its art libraries collection focus program.  These continue to be maintained by the Zentralinstitut even after the conclusion of the DFG support:

  • French art
  • Art and art historical literature of eastern and southeastern European countries
  • Art theory and disciplinary history
  • Iconography

Other focuses in the collection include primary source texts in architectural theory, art historical garden literature, as well as art and architecture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The overwhelming majority of the holdings are directly accessible in an open-stack system.  In the various stack levels the books are organized with a call number (shelf mark) system in placement groups arranged formally and thematically.

In spring 2009 Duke Franz of Bavaria donated his Library of Modern Art, comprising around 15,000 volumes, to the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich.