Santa Monica Museum of Art changes its name and selects new location in downtown L.A.

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The Santa Monica Museum of Art, long known to its fans as SMMoA, will have some different letters in its new name.

The 32-year-old institution, which closed its Bergamot Station location last year, will announce on Friday that it’s moving to downtown L.A. and will be known as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, or ICA LA.

“Our name and location may be changing,” read a statement from Executive Director Elsa Longhauser, “but what remains constant is our goal to reveal the vibrant, untold stories and pivotal moments in the history of contemporary art.”


The new home will be in a 12,700-square-foot former garment manufacturing facility at 1717 E. 7th St., in the Arts District. It will include 7,000 square feet of exhibition space, almost 2,000 square feet larger than the organization’s previous home. The architectural firm wHY is designing the new space, steered by creative director Kulapat Yantrasast. It will include an “experimental kitchen-café,” ICA LA said, and a retail store. The target for opening is spring 2017.

The move to downtown L.A., Longhauser said, is part of a greater change in the L.A. cultural scene.

“A burgeoning epicenter of artistic and cultural energy has recently emerged in downtown Los Angeles,” she said. “ICA LA is thrilled to be part of this seismic shift.”

Longhauser said in an interview that the values and spirit of her organization will remain the same, but its mission is evolving.

“It’s a much more activated and succinct mission,” she said. “It’s a little more socially engaged. It’s about art and social action. The exhibitions will be the same kinds of exhibitions, but it’s also about underscoring certain aspects of art that touch on the hierarchy of race and class, gender and culture.”


SMMoA left its home of 17 years at Bergamot Station in May 2015 with the annual “Incognito” show, a popular fundraiser in which notable artists such as John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Raymond Pettibon and Ed Ruscha exhibit alongside emerging artists, all showing anonymously. The small artworks are donated for the museum to sell.

Longhauser and the museum’s four employees have been working out of Century City offices since June, with rent paid for by a museum patron.

Also on Friday, ICA LA will announce a $5-million capital campaign goal. Fundraising and pledges so far total $1.9 million, the group said.

Follow The Times’ arts team @culturemonster.