Hammer Museum

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For the collection of hammers, see Hammer Museum (Haines, Alaska).
Hammer Museum
Wdmk HammerBox Black.jpg
Established 1990
Location 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90024 (by UCLA campus)
Type Art museum, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Director Ann Philbin
Website www.hammer.ucla.edu

The Armand Hammer Museum (the Hammer Museum), which is affiliated with 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 both historically over-looked and emerging contemporary artists. The Hammer Museum also hosts over 300 programs throughout the year, from lectures, symposia, and readings to concerts and film screenings. 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 Russian Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich which 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 important single-artist and thematic exhibitions of historical and contemporary art. It has developed an international reputation for reintroducing artists and movements that have often been overlooked in the art historical canon.[6] Notable examples include a 2003 retrospective of Lee Bontecou, co-organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield, curated by the artist Robert Gober; and Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960 - 1980, the Hammer Museum’s contribution to the Getty’s 2011 Pacific Standard Time initiative. The Hammer is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. Of all of the solo exhibitions on view in Los Angeles between January 2008 and December 2012, the Hammer is the only institution to devote 50% of its exhibition programming to female artists.[7] The Hammer also hosts roughly fifteen Hammer Projects each year, offering international and local artists a laboratory-like surrounding to create new and innovative work.

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

In 2010 the Hammer announced its inaugural biennial devoted exclusively to Los Angeles artists.[8][9] Though the museum has routinely featured California artists as part of its ongoing exhibition program, the Made in L.A. series has emerged as an important and high-profile platform to showcase the diversity and energy of Los Angeles as an emerging art capitol. Organized by Hammer senior curator Anne Ellegood, Hammer curator Ali Subotnick, LAXART director and chief curator Lauri Firstenberg, LAXART associate director and senior curator Cesar Garcia, and LAXART curator-at-large Malik Gaines, the inaugural Made in L.A. in 2012 featured work by 60 Los Angeles artists in spaces throughout the city including the Hammer Museum itself, LAXART, and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Art Park. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Hammer also sponsored a satellite exhibition, the Venice Beach Biennial on the Venice Boardwalk, between July 13 and 15th of that year.[10]

The second iteration of Made in L.A. in 2014 took over the entire space of the museum to feature work by more than 30 different artists and collectives. The 2014 exhibition was organized by Hammer chief curator Connie Butler and independent curator Michael Ned Holte.[11]

In conjunction with the inaugural Made in L.A. exhibition in 2012, the Hammer offered the first iteration of the prestigious Mohn Award to the artist Meleko Mokgosi. The award consisted of a catalogue and a $100,000.00 cash prize and was decided by public vote after a jury of experts narrowed the 60 participants to five finalists.[12][13] The Mohn Award, funded by Los Angeles philanthropists and art collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation, was one of the most generous international awards given to a single artist.

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 are selected by a professional jury—and the Public Recognition Award ($25,000), which is awarded by popular vote among exhibition visitors. All three awards are again funded by Jarl and Pamela Mohn and the Mohn Family Foundation.[14] In 2014 Alice Könitz's Los Angeles Museum on Art won the Mohn Award, Michael Frimkess and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess were awarded the Career Achievement Award, and Jennifer Moon was awarded the Public Recognition Award.[15][16]


Today the Hammer Museum manages a complex group of art holdings, including the original collection amassed by Armand Hammer which features important paintings by Rembrandt, Gustave Moreau, and Vincent van Gogh among others; UCLA's Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden; and the collection of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, one of the most important and comprehensive collections of works on paper in the country. The museum also owns over 7500 works by French satirist Honoré Daumier, the largest collection of the artist’s works located anywhere outside of Paris. The museum inaugurated its growing Hammer Contemporary Collection in 2005, squarely placing its major collecting emphasis on works on paper as well as on work in other media by Southern California artists produced after 1960.

Bequests from important collectors over the past decade have contributed to the breadth and depth of the Hammer Museum’s collections. In 2003, the museum received 60 American and European drawings from the lyricist Hal David and his wife Eunice. The David collection offers a rich overview of 19th and 20th century graphic work by a wide range of artists from Pablo Picasso to California painter Richard Diebenkorn.[17] Thanks to a gift made by Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson to the Hammer Museum in 2007, more than 50 sculptures by 29 Los Angeles artists made after 1995 were added to the museum's collection.[18] 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 post-World War II artists.[19][20]

Vincent van Gogh. Hospital at Saint-Rémy, 1889. Oil on canvas. 36 5/16 x 28 7/8 in. (92.2 x 73.4 cm). The Armand Hammer Collection, Gift of the Armand Hammer Foundation. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.


A diverse range of free public programs are presented at the Hammer Museum 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 from Audrey L. Wilder, the widow of Billy Wilder, enabled the museum to resume building a 300-seat theater left unfinished at Armand Hammer's death.[21] Its 2006 opening coincided with the centennial of Wilder's birth. The venue currently houses the UCLA Film and Television Archive's well-known cinematheque as well as the Hammer’s 300 public programs a year.[22]

Popular series include a weekly meditation program, the Libros Schmibros book club, and the Hammer Conversations which place major cultural, political, and intellectual leaders in dialog with one another. Past Hammer Conversations participants include the writers Joan Didion, Jonathan Lethem, and George Saunders, the filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Miranda July, journalist Naomi Klein, comedians Jeff Garlin and Patton Oswalt, playwright and screenwriter David Mamet, magician Ricky Jay, artists Betye Saar and Sam Durant, actors Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, and many others.[23] A striking example of the timeliness and popularity of these events occurred in March 2003, when 2,000 people gathered at the Hammer Museum to hear Gore Vidal speak about the Iraq war the night before bombing began. Since 2010, the Hammer has partnered with the radio station KCRW to host an annual outdoor summer concert series.[24]

In the past, the Hammer traditionally focused on university-level education programs because of its affiliation with UCLA.[25] Since 2009, the Hammer has been annually inviting 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, Jodie Foster and Zoe Saldana.[26]


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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[28][29][30][31]

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.[32]

In 2006, architect Michael Maltzan designed the Billy Wilder Theater and the museum’s café. Michael Maltzan Architecture also designed the John V. Tunney Bridge, which opened in February 2015. The pedestrian bridge, named in honor of John V. Tunney, longtime Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hammer Museum, connects the upper level galleries over the Hammer Courtyard. [33]

Hammer died less than a month after his namesake museum opened to the public in November 1990, leaving the fledgling institution mired in litigation over its financing and prompting new legal battles regarding the disposition of Hammer’s estate. While the museum’s operating budget was provided 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.[34] 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, UCLA's existing museum, and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, the university’s print collection, were moved to the Hammer.[35] 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.[36]

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.” Under current leadership, the Hammer’s budget has grown from 5 million dollars to roughly 20 million dollars annually, with a full-time staff of over 100.[37][38]



In 1994, Henry Hopkins, then director of the Wight gallery and professor in the Department of Art at UCLA, became director of the Museum. He served in that position until his retirement in 1998.[39] In 1999 Ann Philbin, previously director of The Drawing Center in New York, was named director and still serves as director today.

Board of Directors & Board of Overseers[edit]

The Hammer Museum was founded by Dr. Armand Hammer. Michael Armand Hammer is Chairman Emeritus, and Armie Hammer and Viktor Armand Hammer are Honorary Directors. Michael Rubel serves as President, Nelson C. Rising serves as Vice President, and Steven A. Olsen serves as Treasurer. Under Chair Marcy Carsey, the Hammer's Board of Directors also includes Heather R. Axe, Renée Becnel, Gene Block, Lloyd E. Cotsen, Eric Esrailian, Erika J. Glazer, Manuela Herzer, Larry Marx, Anthony Pritzker, Lee Ramer, Kevin L. Ratner, Chip Rosenbloom, Steven P. Song, John V. Tunney, Kevin Wall, John Walsh, and Christopher A. Waterman.[40] Members of the Board of Overseers include artists Barbara 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. ^ 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/visit/#venice-beach
  11. ^ Carol Vogel (September 20, 2012), Two Big Collectors Ready for November New York Times.
  12. ^ Jori Finkel (August 16, 2012), Hammer Museum's $100,000 Mohn Award goes to painter Meleko Mokgosi Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ Jori Finkel (March 14, 2012), Hammer announces $100,000 prize for new biennial; 60 artists chosen Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ http://www.laweekly.com/publicspectacle/2014/01/30/hammer-museums-controversial-mohn-award-returns-with-a-twist
  15. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-hammer-museum-made-in-la-awards-winners-20140818-story.html
  16. ^ http://www.laweekly.com/arts/jennifer-moon-wins-hammer-museum-award-plans-to-start-revolution-5018046
  17. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2003/apr/18/entertainment/et-suzanne18
  18. ^ Second Nature: The Valentine-Adelson Collection at the Hammer, July 19 - October 4, 2009 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
  19. ^ Mike Boehm (July 9, 2007), Hammer nails a major collection Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ Intimate Immensity: The Susan and Larry Marx Collection, February 5 - May 6, 2012 Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.
  21. ^ Hilarie M. Sheets (October 6, 2004), Armand Hammer's Orphan Museum Turns Into Cinderella in Los Angeles New York Times.
  22. ^ Hammer Museum: About, ARTINFO, 2008, retrieved 2008-07-11 
  23. ^ 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)
  24. ^ http://blogs.kcrw.com/musicnews/2010/05/kcrw-hammer-museum-present-the-also-i-like-to-rock-free-concert-series-this-july/
  25. ^ David Ng (September 16, 2013), Hammer Museum gets $2-million gift from Anthony Pritzker Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ Christopher Wyrick (May 6, 2013), Julie Bowen, Jodie Foster Join Hammer Museum's K.A.M.P. Event The Hollywood Reporter.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/1988-05-22/magazine/tm-4568_1_armand-hammer-collection
  29. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-22/entertainment/ca-1803_1_hammer-museum
  30. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-21/entertainment/ca-1119_1_armand-hammer-museum
  31. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1988-01-28/news/we-39037_1_armand-hammer-museum
  32. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1991-01-13/realestate/re-94_1_hammer-museum
  33. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-hammer-museum-bridge-michael-maltzan-20141119-story.html
  34. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1991-01-25/entertainment/ca-701_1_armand-hammer-museum
  35. ^ http://www.arts.ucla.edu/press/pdf/UCLAArtsHistory.pdf
  36. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/19/entertainment/et-hammer19
  37. ^ http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-ca-philbin18-2009oct18-story.html#page=1
  38. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/arts/design/hurdles-grow-at-the-museum-of-contemporary-art-los-angeles.html?_r=1&
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ http://hammer.ucla.edu/about-us/museum-boards/

External links[edit]

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