Formerly the section of art history at the Institute of History, the Institute of Art History was founded with a decree of the presidency of the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts on 28 November 1972. On 20 March 1975 it was re-named the France Stele Institute of Art History, after its first head, the leading Slovene art historian of the time and academician Dr. France Stele (1886-1972). Since the foundation of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1981 it is one of its institutes.
The institute is the central scientific research institution in the field of art history in Slovenia. The researches are conducted into the fine arts and architecture from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century, including also the study, publishing and commenting of archival sources for their historiography and interpretation. Special studies are dedicated to the art of the Romanesque period, Baroque and the 19th century, and to the work of the architect Jože Plečnik. The results of the researches also contribute to the preservation of art monuments which represent essential components of Slovene national identity. The institute collaborates with native and foreign experts as well as galleries, museums, institutions for monument protection, art histotory institutes etc. in Slovenia and abroad (Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy).