IRSA Institute for Art Historical Research was established in 1979, IRSA being the acronym of the Italian name: Istituto per le Ricerche di Storia dell’Arte, as the Institute was initially based in Venice (1979–1982). From there it moved to Florence and Vienna, and finally, in 1996, to Cracow (Poland). IRSA has maintained contacts over many years with the Japanese art-historical milieu, including specialists in Oriental and European Art, and, in cooperation with Professor Hidemichi Tanaka, opened a branch at the University of Sendai.
The idea of starting a new art periodical and a research institute as its subsidiary, originated with Józef Grabski at the end of the 1970s. His initiative was carried to fruition in collaboration with a group of art historians gathered at the International Congress of the History of Art (CIHA) in Bologna in 1979, when IRSA as a research Institute and as a publisher (IRSA Publishing House) came into being. That same year (but dated already 1980) the first issue of Artibus et Historiae, appeared.
Józef Grabski, then a young art historian, former student of Professor Jan Białostocki at the University of Warsaw and then research student at the University of Vienna and the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence, managed to enlist for the new Institute and its periodical the collaboration of art historians of international repute including André Chastel, Giuliano Briganti, René Huyghe, Carlo del Bravo, Everett Fahy, Hermann Fillitz and Konrad Oberhuber, and Professors Adam Labuda, Juliusz Chrościcki and Andrzej Rottermund together with Jan Białostocki, from Poland.
Within the framework of the current activities of IRSA, Józef Grabski has organised art exhibitions in many countries around the world, accompanied by well-researched and richly illustrated catalogues, published by the IRSA Publishing House.
IRSA Art Consulting is a separate branch of the Institute which gives advice on dealing in Polish and foreign art, both Old Master and contemporary artists. Drawing on Józef Grabski’s extensive experience in this field, IRSA acts as a consultant and helps clients to build up their collections.