Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum Reopens With New Gallery Space – The Hollywood Reporter

“We’ve been kind of a hidden gem for so long,” says Connie Butler, chief curator of the Hammer Museum, which opened in 1990 at the base of a Westwood office building. In the more than three decades since, the Hammer has earned an international reputation for its talked-about contemporary art exhibitions and culture-changing programs, including its biennial Made in LA exhibition, but the museum has always lacked a marquee street presence.

That changes on March 25, when the final phase of a multi-year refresh will be unveiled.

Los Angeles-based architect Michael Maltzan, who was first commissioned in 2000 to create a master plan for the Hammer’s renovation and expansion, has designed what he calls a new “welcoming porch” at the corner of Wilshire and Westwood avenues. to welcome visitors. “For the first time, we’ll really have a proper museum entrance,” says Butler, adding that the new entrance will include a large digital billboard displaying art and museum information.

Sanford Biggers’ Oracle was commissioned and installed at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2021. On March 26, it will be presented as a current exhibition at the Hammer by the Art Production Fund with the Marianne Boesky Gallery.

Daniel Greer

Inside, the museum will gain 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, expanding into the adjacent area once occupied by City National Bank. Among the new shows opening March 26 as part of the reborn Hammer are installations by Berlin-based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (known for threading colored wool yarn through spaces to create “a very enveloping, very physical experience,” says Butler) and LA-based Rita McBride, whose work, Dust particlesfeatures 16 lasers (which are “activated by a gentle mist that comes from the ceiling,” notes the curator).

At the corner of Glendon Avenue, Hammer will also unveil a massive, 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture by artist Sanford Biggers titled Oracle, which debuted in New York, but will unveil the Hammer’s outdoor sculptural pedestal in its first West Coast presence. “After the Hammer came along, I was extremely excited because I admire it deeply, and I was excited to have something not only in the museum but at this intersection because I spent a lot of my childhood in Westwood and I used to walk past that intersection,” says Biggers THR.

“It is such a large piece that it holds; it doesn’t really require much around it to be activated, just for viewers to have a good view of it,” adds the artist. “It will also be very exciting to have a piece that has this kind of visual weight and impact in Westwood. There are many other places in the city where it could be, but I think this particular area will lend itself to very interesting reactions and interactions with viewers.”

Adds Butler: “The idea of ​​bringing it to Los Angeles, where the artist is from, as a way to mark our reopening and the reopening of the ground floor and entrance of our building was really a no-brainer,” says Butler. “It’s such an iconic, monumental piece of work.”

Marcy Carsey, chair of the Hammer Museum’s board of trustees, says THR that she is proud that the arts institution, led by director Ann Philbin, remains open while it expands. “The museum wasn’t too upset about it; It was amazing,” says the TV producer, adding that she chose to join Hammer because of its ethics. “My interest is not in contemporary art per se. What I care about is the social justice in its mission. It’s the Hammer Museum and the Cultural Center, and it really works as both.” Upcoming programs include a conversation about originalism and the Supreme Court and a discussion about feminist activism in the digital space.

The museum’s two-decade transformation represents no notable departure from the vision that birthed it, but instead signals an investment in a space that already exists as a thriving destination in the city’s art scene and a belief that it will continue to be a valuable institution well into the future .

Butler says he sees the museum’s growth as growing in tandem with that of the city he calls home. “We’ve seen Los Angeles go from being kind of an outpost,” she says, “to being seen as a very important center in the international world of contemporary art.”

A version of this story first appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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