Dunning Lecture Series, Pasadena Museum of History, Andrea Thabet on “Simon Says: How Norton Simon Transformed a Failing Art Museum into a Cultural Powerhouse” (Tuesday, September 12, 2017)
As part of the George A.V. Dunning Lecture Series, Dr. Andrea Thabet will discuss the construction and dissolution of the Pasadena Art Museum between 1969 and 1975, when business tycoon and art collector Norton Simon rescued the failing museum and transformed it into a West Coast cultural powerhouse. Founded as the Pasadena Art Institute in 1922, by 1954 the Institute had acquired modern art collections of tremendous importance and underwent a reinvention of sorts. Renamed the Pasadena Art Museum (PAM), plans were put in place to construct a new building at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue. PAM’s re-opening in 1969 was deemed a victory for modern artists carving out their own cultural spaces, yet by 1974, PAM was drowning in construction debts. After exhausting all other possibilities, museum trustees allowed Simon to assume financial and operational management of the museum. Combining his own extensive collection of Old Masters and Impressionist art with PAM’s collections, Simon revamped the museum’s policies, renovated the gallery space, and changed the name to the Norton Simon Museum within two years. Many in the bohemian art world saw Simon’s rescue of PAM as a hostile takeover that signaled the end of L.A.’s vibrant modern art movement. Without a doubt, it dealt a serious blow to the modern art scene for both collectors and artists. However, Simon’s decision to house his internationally renowned art collection on the West Coast in Los Angeles, would ultimately prove to be a cultural boon for the metropolis. The Norton Simon Museum is now widely considered one of Southern California’s cultural jewels, with one of the most “remarkable private art collections ever assembled.”
Registration information is available through the Pasadena Museum of History website. Admission is $15 for HSSC and PMH Members and $20 General Admission.