The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens kicked off its yearlong centennial celebration Thursday with an event that was as much about the institution’s future as it was about the past, and foremost in that future: a new name.
The venerable San Marino destination is swapping out “Collections” for “Museum” and effective immediately will be known as the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
“The evolution to the name ‘museum’ is a recognition of the breadth and depth of our collections and the fact that they’re available to the public,” Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence said in an interview prior to the centennial event. “The idea of ‘collections’ seems rather private sometimes, and ‘museum’ is clearly legible to the public that you’re invited to come and we have exhibitions and talks and interactions with the collections.”
Lawrence added that “museum” is more internet-search-friendly to tourists. “It means that when someone’s coming to L.A. and looking for museums and great collections to see that we’re on the list.”
Going forward, Lawrence said, partnerships with other L.A. institutions will be of increased importance.
The Huntington will partner with the UCLA Hammer Museum in Westwood on its next “Made in L.A.” biennial, which runs June 7 to Aug. 30. The Huntington will host part of the exhibition of painting, sculpture, film and video, performance, literature and music by under-recognized L.A.-area artists, curated by Paris-based writer and curator Myriam Ben Salah and Los Angeles curator and graphic designer Lauren Mackler.
Hammer director Ann Philbin said in an interview that there’s precedent for “Made in L.A.” to be held in multiple locations. In 2012, the Hammer partnered with the nonprofit exhibition space LAXART. Philbin noted that both the Huntington and UCLA are celebrating 100-year birthdays, so there’s natural synergy between the organizations.
“First of all, we get to have a larger exhibition, which is exciting,” Philbin said. “But I also think it brings a larger audience, given the fact that the Huntington is all the way on the east side of Los Angeles and they have a very different demographic of an audience.”
Added Lawrence: “One exhibition in two venues unites the east and the west of L.A., which sometimes don’t really address each other. It’s an invitation to lots of people to come and see what both institutions are doing.”
For the duration of “Made in L.A. 2020,” visitors to the Hammer will receive passes to enter the Huntington for free. “Made in L.A.” exhibits at the Huntington will be at the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery for special exhibitions or the front portion of the revamped Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The exhibits will take up about 8,600 square feet of gallery space at the Huntington, and the institutions are also planning joint programming.
The Huntington also will partner with the local nonprofit Clockshop on “Beside the Edge of the World.” The exhibition will feature new art and literature by Nina Katchadourian, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Rosten Woo, Dana Johnson and Robin Coste Lewis, all responding to Thomas More’s satirical 1516 novel, “Utopia.”
The centennial’s anchor exhibition will be “Nineteen Nineteen,” which takes a deep dive into the year of the institution’s founding. It features about 275 objects from the Huntington’s collection that were made, published, exhibited or acquired by the institution in 1919. The exhibition “What Now: Collecting for the Library” will showcase, in two separate, consecutive installations, recent acquisitions of manuscripts, photographs and ephemera.
In May, the Huntington will unveil the final phase of its expanded Chinese Garden, Liu Fang Yuan (The Garden of Flowing Fragrance), bringing the space to 12 acres. The Chinese Garden will premiere two new galleries: a permanent exhibition showcasing a traditional scholar’s studio and an art gallery for rotating exhibitions.
Two free event series debut during the centennial. “President’s Series” will feature performances and conversations related to the humanities, the first between authors Susan Orlean and Viet Nguyen. The speaker series “Why It Matters” will feature Lawrence in conversation with guests, beginning with Carla Hayden, the first woman and first African American to become the Librarian of Congress.
And on Jan. 1 the Huntington will — for the first time since 1969 — enter a float in the 2020 Rose Parade.
Here’s the updated lineup of centennial events.