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Hammer Museum in Los Angeles

Profile of the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture in Westwood

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Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture in Westwood Los Angeles
Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

History and Background of the Hammer Museum

The Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture (colloquially known as "the Hammer") first opened its doors on November 28, 1990 with an exhibit of works by Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich. It was founded by Dr. Armand Hammer (former chairman of Occidental Petroleum), who died just days after its opening.

The $60 million 79,000-square-foot art space was designed by New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. It was first described--upon reception--by the Los Angeles Times as "a rare example of [such] architectural reticence," "a stylistic understatement" and "discreet to the point of anonymity."

In 1994, UCLA assumed management and operations of the Hammer. The Hammer assumed responsibility for the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden on the UCLA campus. In late 2005, the Hammer's Billy Wilder Theater opened.

Summary and Scope of Art and Programs

The Hammer is perhaps the mainstream institution that has put LA's art scene on the global map. Its cutting edge and poignant art exhibits--many focusing on emerging creatives--special events, readings, films and concerts, make it a vital player on the national scene as well. The Hammer showcases pieces by diverse artists who utilize different media--from installations to video art. In recent years, its annual visitor numbers have climbed upwards of 175,000.

The Hammer has exhibited the work of such artists as Wolfgang Tillmans, Lee Mullican and Robert Overby, and boasts permanent collections including the work of Fernand Leger and Richard Diebenkorn. It is also known for its unconventional programming and curation. Unusual programs have included a talk with comedienne Margaret Cho and rapper Chuck D (pictured above), and a high-profile public speaking engagement by writer Gore Vidal, who spoke about the Iraq War to a crowd of 2,000.

Ann Philbin, Director of the Hammer Museum

Museum director Ann Philbin was hired in 1999. She is largely credited with having turned the Armand Hammer into a world-class edgy contemporary art destination.

In just five years, she saw to it that the museum's annual attendance more than doubled.

Philbin once gave the New York Times some insight into her philosophy and m.o.: "At the same time that this incredible art scene was developing in Los Angeles with all these young artists coming out of school there really wasn't an institution that was taking care of them. The galleries were carrying most of the burden of showing what was happening. We stepped into that void."

Billy Wilder Theater and UCLA Film and Television Archive

Named after legendary producer/screenwriter Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, Sunset Blvd.), and opened with a $5 million donation from Audrey L. Wilder, the Billy Wilder Theater is the home of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The 295-seat theater, located within the Hammer at Courtyard level, presents an eclectic range of film programs. It's been known to screen hip and relevant short films from the Flux series, as well as documentaries co-hosted by Dance Camera West.

Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024
310-443-7000

Opening hours:
Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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