Los Angeles art history — a timeline


A selective timeline of modern and contemporary art in the L.A. area

1927 Walter and Louise Arensberg, major patrons of Marcel Duchamp, move from New York to Los Angeles and install their trove of modern art and ethnic artifacts in a Hollywood house that attracts art aficionados from far and wide.

1933 German art dealer and collector Galka E. Scheyer, who represented Alexei Jawlensky, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger, settles in L.A. 1934 Painters Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg start the New Classicism movement, later known as Post-Surrealism.

1948 The Modern Institute of Art opens in Beverly Hills but closes in less than two years because of insufficient funding.


1951 The Los Angeles City Council decrees that modern art is Communist propaganda and bans its public display, but the ordinance has little effect.

1957 Artist Edward Kienholz and curator Walter Hopps open Ferus Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard.

1959 The L.A. County Museum of History, Science and Art presents “Four Abstract Classicists,” bringing national attention to Southern California painters Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley and John McLaughlin.

1962 Ferus presents Andy Warhol’s first show of his Campbell’s soup can paintings, priced at $100 apiece.

1963 The Pasadena Art Museum presents the first full retrospective of Marcel Duchamp’s work.

1965 The art division of the mixed-use county museum in Exposition Park gains its own home, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on Wilshire Boulevard.

1965 Nicholas Wilder opens a gallery featuring contemporary art from New York and Los Angeles.

1965 The Watts Towers Arts Center is launched under the direction of artist Noah Purifoy.

1966 County supervisors threaten to shut down a retrospective of Edward Kienholz’s sculpture at LACMA, and the show becomes a succès de scandale.

1968 Artists Dale and Alonzo Davis open the Brockman Gallery, a showcase for African American art.


1969 The Pasadena Art Museum, a stronghold of contemporary art, moves into a new building it can’t afford on Colorado Boulevard.

1971 LACMA stages “Art and Technology,” a landmark exhibition capping a four-year collaboration between artists and scientists.

1974 Industrialist Norton Simon takes charge of the financially stressed Pasadena Art Museum and installs his collection of European and Asian art.

1974 The Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art launches with an exhibition, “Nine Senior Southern California Painters,” and a periodical: the LAICA Journal.

1979 The Museum of Contemporary Art is founded through an initiative of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

1979 Self Help Graphics, a Chicano printmaking studio and gallery founded in 1970, moves into what becomes its longtime home in East L.A.


1983 MOCA opens its Contemporary Temporary exhibition space, later dubbed the Geffen Contemporary.

1986 LACMA inaugurates its Robert O. Anderson Building for modern and contemporary art.

1986 MOCA opens its flagship building, designed by Arata Isozaki.

1992 MOCA presents “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s,” a blockbuster exhibition about young L. A. artists. 1994 UCLA takes charge of the Hammer Museum, which develops a strong contemporary art program.

1994 The L.A. gallery scene expands into Bergamot Station, a sprawling arts complex in Santa Monica.

1999 The opening of China Art Objects inaugurates a transformation of Chinatown. 2003 Blum & Poe’s move adjacent to Culver City sparks an explosion of contemporary art galleries.

-- Suzanne Muchnic