Hammer Museum

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Hammer Museum
Wdmk HammerBox Black.jpg
Location10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90024 (by UCLA campus)
TypeArt Museum, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
DirectorAnn Philbin
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For The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska, see Hammer Museum (Haines, AK)
Hammer Museum
Wdmk HammerBox Black.jpg
Location10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90024 (by UCLA campus)
TypeArt Museum, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
DirectorAnn Philbin

The Hammer Museum, a public arts unit of the University of California, Los Angeles, is an art museum and cultural center known for its artist-centric and progressive array of exhibitions and public programs. Founded in 1990 by the entrepreneur-industrialist Armand Hammer to house his personal art collection, the museum has since expanded its scope to become “the hippest and most culturally relevant institution in town.”[1] Particularly important among the museum’s critically-acclaimed exhibitions are presentations of historically over-looked figures, including women artists and artists of color, and the ongoing Hammer Projects series, which offers emerging contemporary artists a laboratory-like environment in which to experiment. The museum’s collection of roughly 50,000 objects, one of the most significant collections of works on paper in the country, represents an important archive of contemporary art produced in and around Los Angeles. The Hammer Museum also hosts a rotating selection of programs throughout the year, from lectures, symposia, and readings to concerts and film screenings. Locating the arts within broader political, economic, and historical contexts, the Hammer’s free public programs have transformed the museum into a dynamic forum for cultural exchange. Diversity and inclusivity are central to the Hammer’s Mission, and, as of February 2014 the museum’s collections, exhibitions, and programs are completely free to all visitors.[2][3][4]


The Hammer opened November 28, 1990, with an exhibition of work by the Kazimir Malevich; the show originated at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and subsequently travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.[5] The museum has since presented key single-artist and thematic exhibitions of historical and contemporary art produced by its curators or prepared in collaboration with other institutions. It has developed a reputation of organizing invitational shows of artists whom the public — including the dealers — has never heard of, including Lee Mullican, Robert Overby and Lee Bontecou.[6] Of all solo shows on view over the period between January 2008 and December 2012, about 50% were devoted to female artists.[7] The Hammer also has roughly ten Hammer Projects each year, offering international and local artists with a laboratory-like surrounding to create new work or to show existing work in a fresh context.

Los Angeles Biennial: Made in L.A.[edit]

In 2010 the Hammer announced it was collaborating with nonprofit gallery LAXART in founding the first Los Angeles Biennial.[8][9] The biennial exhibition series Made in L.A. began in 2012, featured work by 60 Los Angeles artists, and was on view June 2–September 2, 2012 at the Hammer, LAXART, and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Art Park.[10] In conjunction with the exhibition, the Hammer held the Venice Beach Biennial on the Venice Beach Boardwalk July 13–15, 2012.[11] Instead of being in four locations across the city as the first one was, the 2014 biennial will occupy the entire Hammer Museum building from June 15-September 7, 2014.[12]

In conjunction with the inaugural Made in L.A. exhibition in 2012, the Hammer offered the Mohn Award to one artist in the exhibition. The Award included a catalogue and $100,000. A jury of experts narrowed the 60 artists to five finalists, and the recipient of the Mohn Award, painter Meleko Mokgosi, was chosen by people who saw the exhibition.[13][14] The Mohn Award surpasses the Turner Prize and matches the Bucksbaum Award for sheer dollar value. The Mohn Award is funded by Los Angeles philanthropists and art collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation.[14]

In 2014 the Hammer announced it was offering three awards in conjunction with Made in L.A. 2014: The Mohn Award ($100,000), the Career Achievement Award ($25,000)—both of which will be selected by a professional jury—and the Public Recognition Award ($25,000), which will be determined through a public vote by exhibition visitors. All three awards are again funded by Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation.[15]


The Hammer today manages a complex group of art holdings, including the collections amassed by Armand Hammer, and UCLA's Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, a 45,000-piece graphic arts trove. The museum contains a small collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. It holds over 7500 works by French satirist Honoré Daumier, the largest collection outside of Paris. The museum also has fine paintings by Rembrandt, Titian, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Gustave Moreau, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh, among many others.

In recent years, the Hammer has become well known for its collection of contemporary art works on paper. The museum received a gift of 60 American and European drawings from the collection of lyricist Hal David and his wife, Eunice, in 2003, adding a trove of 19th and 20th century works by a wide range of artists—from Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger to California painter Richard Diebenkorn.[16] In gift made by Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson to the Hammer Museum in 2007, more than 50 sculptures by 29 Los Angeles artists, made from 1995 to the present, were added to the museum's collection.[17] In 2007, the museum was chosen by Colorado developer Larry Marx and his wife, Susan, to inherit their collection of drawings and other works on paper by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Yayoi Kusama, Mira Schendel, Mark Bradford, Rachel Whiteread, and other major figures of the post-World War II era.[18][19]



The Hammer is a cultural center that contributes an assorted range of free public programs six evenings a week throughout the year, including lectures, readings, symposia, film screenings, musical performances, and other events. The Billy Wilder Theater opened at the Hammer Museum in late 2006, after a $5 million gift in 2004 from Audrey L. Wilder, the widow of Billy Wilder, enabled the museum to resume building a 300-seat theater left unfinished at Hammer's death.[20] Its 2006 opening coincided with the centennial of Wilder's birth. The venue houses the Hammer's public programs and is also the new home of the UCLA Film and Television Archive's well-known cinematheque.[21] The museum also hosts a dialog series called "Hammer Conversations." Participants have included the writers Joan Didion, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders, the filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Miranda July, comedians Jeff Garlin and Patton Oswalt, playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, magician Ricky Jay, artists Tom Morello and Sam Durant, actors Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto and many others.[22] Most notably, 2,000 people packed the museum's outdoor courtyard to hear Gore Vidal speak about the Iraq war the night before the bombing began in March 2003.[6]

Kids’ Art Museum Project[edit]

In the past, the Hammer traditionally focused on university-level education programs because of its affiliation with UCLA.[23] Since 2009, the Hammer annually invites an accomplished group of Los Angeles artists to lead workshops based on their working processes on the occasion of the Kids’ Art Museum Project (K.A.M.P). Unlike other family events, K.A.M.P. provides access and experiences for children and their families with renowned Los Angeles artists, many of whom have been the subject of exhibitions at the Hammer Museum. Past participating artists include Edgar Arceneaux, Mark Grotjahn, Catherine Opie, Jorge Pardo[disambiguation needed], and Jonas Wood. Each year the event features a series of celebrities reading from their favorite children’s books in the museum’s galleries, such as Will Ferrell, Jason Bateman, Hilary Swank, and Jodie Foster.[24]


The museum was founded by Armand Hammer, the late CEO of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation, as a venue to exhibit his extensive art collection, at the time valued at $250 million.[25] A Los Angeles County Museum of Art board member for nearly 20 years, Hammer withdrew from a non-binding agreement to transfer his paintings to LACMA after disagreements regarding how his collection would be displayed. Shortly thereafter, on January 21, 1988, Hammer announced plans to build his own museum on the site of a Westwood parking garage adjacent to the Occidental headquarters.[26] Community leaders who hailed the plan as a positive turning point in the neighborhood’s development were soon overshadowed by complaints from Occidental shareholders who sued the company over the museum’s escalating construction costs, which were capped by a federal judge at 60 million dollars.[26][27][28][29] Designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, the New-York based architect responsible for the Dallas Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center, the building housing the museum was conceived as a Renaissance palazzo with galleries centered around a tranquil, interior courtyard and a relatively austere exterior profile.[30]

Hammer died less than a month after his namesake museum opened to the public in November 1990, leaving it mired in litigation over the its financing and prompting new legal battles regarding the disposition of Hammer’s estate. While the museum’s operating budget was covered by a 36 million dollar annuity purchased by Occidental Petroleum, questions remained regarding the future of the museum’s collections and the role that the Hammer family would play in its administration.[31] In 1994, the Regents of the University of California entered into a 99-year operating agreement with the Armand Hammer Foundation to assume management of the museum, which afforded the fledgling institution a measure of stability. At that point the exhibition programs of the Wight Art Gallery, the university’s existing museum, and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, the University’s print collection, were moved to the Hammer.[32] A 2007 a settlement between the UC Regents and the Hammer Foundation formally ended long-simmering disputes over the Hammer collection’s ownership and established new guidelines for its display that allowed the museum more space for exhibitions and a growing contemporary collection.[33]

Despite the institutional hurdles that earned it the nickname “America’s vainest museum” at its inception, the Hammer is now widely acknowledged as “a hot spot for contemporary art and ideas and a venue for serious exploration of overlooked historical subjects.”[33][34] The museum’s operating budget currently outstrips that of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles at roughly 16 million dollars annual, and it functions with a full-time staff of over 100.[35][36][37]



Henry Hopkins, then director of the Wight gallery and professor in the Department of Art, became director of the Museum until his retirement in 1998.[38] In 1999 Ann Philbin, previously director of The Drawing Center in New York, was named director.

Board of Directors & Board of Overseers[edit]

Under Chair Marcy Carsey, the Hammer's Board of Directors includes architect Frank O. Gehry, investor Kevin Wall, art historian John Walsh, Heather Axe, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Neutrogena Corporation Lloyd E. Cotsen, Martin Cozyn, physician Eric Esrailian, philanthropist Erika Glazer, Larry Marx, businessman and hotel heir Anthony Pritzker, Lee Ramer, Kevin L. Ratner and Christopher Waterman.[39] Members of the Board of Overseers include artists Kruger and Lari Pittman. The museum does not disclose its annual board membership dues.


  1. ^ http://www.latimesmagazine.com/2009/07/ann-philbin-tastemaker.html
  2. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/07/entertainment/la-et-cm-hammer-museum-free-admission-sunday-20140207
  3. ^ http://hammer.ucla.edu/about-us/
  4. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-knight-hammer-notebook-20131007-story.html
  5. ^ Allan Parachini (January 25, 1991), Confused Picture at Hammer Museum : Litigation, Lack of Direction Cloud Future of Recently Opened Westwood Facility Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ a b Hilarie M. Sheets (October 6, 2004), Armand Hammer's Orphan Museum Turns Into Cinderella in Los Angeles New York Times.
  7. ^ Christopher Knight (July 11, 2013), LACMA, MOCA fall behind in giving female artists a solo platform Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Jori Finkel (September 07, 2010), L.A. art biennial on tap for 2012 Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Jori Finkel (May 25, 2012), Hammer biennial lends artists a helping hand Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ http://www.madeinla2012.org/about/
  11. ^ http://www.madeinla2012.org/visit/#venice-beach
  12. ^ Carol Vogel (September 20, 2012), Two Big Collectors Ready for November New York Times.
  13. ^ Jori Finkel (August 16, 2012), Hammer Museum's $100,000 Mohn Award goes to painter Meleko Mokgosi Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ a b Jori Finkel (March 14, 2012), Hammer announces $100,000 prize for new biennial; 60 artists chosen Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ http://www.laweekly.com/publicspectacle/2014/01/30/hammer-museums-controversial-mohn-award-returns-with-a-twist
  16. ^ Suzanne Muchnich (April 18, 2003), Songwriter, wife give Hammer 60 drawings Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ Second Nature: The Valentine-Adelson Collection at the Hammer, July 19 - October 4, 2009 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
  18. ^ Mike Boehm (July 9, 2007), Hammer nails a major collection Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Intimate Immensity: The Susan and Larry Marx Collection, February 5 - May 6, 2012 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
  20. ^ Hilarie M. Sheets (October 6, 2004), Armand Hammer's Orphan Museum Turns Into Cinderella in Los Angeles New York Times.
  21. ^ Hammer Museum: About, ARTINFO, 2008, retrieved 2008-07-11 
  22. ^ Somasundaram, Niran (2011-01-13). The Daily Bruin http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/blog/spotlight/2011/01/hammer_conversations_program_. Retrieved 2011-02-28.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ David Ng (September 16, 2013), Hammer Museum gets $2-million gift from Anthony Pritzker Los Angeles Times.
  24. ^ Christopher Wyrick (May 6, 2013), Julie Bowen, Jodie Foster Join Hammer Museum's K.A.M.P. Event The Hollywood Reporter.
  25. ^ Michael Small and Jacqueline Savaiano (March 28, 1988), Thanks to Medicis Like Norton Simon and Armand Hammer, a Gilded Dilly of An Art Scene Flowers in L.A. People.
  26. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/1988-05-22/magazine/tm-4568_1_armand-hammer-collection
  27. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-22/entertainment/ca-1803_1_hammer-museum
  28. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-21/entertainment/ca-1119_1_armand-hammer-museum
  29. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1988-01-28/news/we-39037_1_armand-hammer-museum
  30. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1991-01-13/realestate/re-94_1_hammer-museum
  31. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1991-01-25/entertainment/ca-701_1_armand-hammer-museum
  32. ^ http://www.arts.ucla.edu/press/pdf/UCLAArtsHistory.pdf
  33. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/19/entertainment/et-hammer19
  34. ^ http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,972206,00.html
  35. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-philbin18-2009oct18-story.html#page=1
  36. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/arts/design/hurdles-grow-at-the-museum-of-contemporary-art-los-angeles.html?_r=1&
  37. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-me-henry-hopkins29-2009sep29-story.html#page=1
  38. ^ Suzanne Muchnic (September 28, 2009), Henry T. Hopkins dies at 81; painter and museum director had formative role in L.A. art scene Los Angeles Times.
  39. ^ http://hammer.ucla.edu/about/museum_board_and_staff.html

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°3′34″N 118°26′37″W / 34.05944°N 118.44361°W / 34.05944; -118.44361