From the earliest to the most current California art, Collecting California: Selections from Laguna Art Museum outlined some of the most significant works of art created in California over the last 150 years. The exhibition was a celebration of California art and artists and explored what makes California different.
Although one may imagine that the Laguna Art Museum collection began with the development of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918, the story is much more complex than that.
The collection officially began in 1940, fueled in part by the recognition that many of the artists that came to Laguna Beach at the turn of the twentieth century had passed away. One by one many wonderful works of art were donated either by these artists or their widows and heirs. By the 1970s, the Laguna Beach Art Association had become the Laguna Beach Museum of Art and started to generate significant one person and thematic exhibitions on important California artists and movements. As a result, collectors began to donate major pieces of their collections to the Museum.
A 1977 exhibition with a publication on William Wendt provided one of the first in-depth looks at a significant West Coast impressionist painter. This exhibition helped to validate the importance of the work to many local dealers and area collectors. Subsequently, local dealers and collectors began to explore the work of prominent twentieth century impressionist painters in Southern California, which led to the establishment of significant collections. In the 1980s and 90s, exhibitions and scholarship on California art at the Museum became more sophisticated and began to generate interest from collectors and dealers in the area.
That kernel of interest resulted in the development of some magnificent collections, and some of them have formed the most significant parts of Laguna Art Museum’s Collection. As the Museum’s mission became more focused on California art, collectors with a similar scope began to take interest.
Collecting California: Selections from Laguna Art Museum focused on individual collectors and the important gifts they have made to the Museum. Works of art have been given by Nancy Dustin Wall Moure (the art historian who has pioneered the history of California art and wrote the book California Art: 450 Years of Painting and Other Media), Carl S. Dentzel (a director of the Southwest Museum), Murray and Ruth Gribin (collectors, trustees, and patrons of contemporary Southern California art since the 1960s), Stuart and Judy Spence (trustees, theorists, benefactors of cutting edge Los Angeles art), Mark and Hilarie Moore (long time supporters, dealers, and collectors of contemporary art in Orange County), Diana Zlotnick (an early collector of Southern California assemblage and contemporary art), others including Richard H. Mumper, Lois Outerbridge, Virgina Steele Scott, Joan Simon Menkes, and the Contemporary Collectors Council.
The exhibition was accompanied by a 144-page, soft-cover, fully-illustrated book published by Laguna Art Museum. Featuring over 80 works from the Museum’s permanent collection, this book is a celebration of the art and artists of California and of the generosity of many longstanding friends and supporters of the Museum. Included are essays by Susan Anderson (Independent Curator and Art Historian), Janet Blake (Curator of Collections), Jacqueline Bunge (Curator of Education), Bolton Colburn (Director of Laguna Art Museum), Doug Harvey (Artist, Curator, and Writer), Grace Kook-Anderson (Curator of Exhibitions), Will South (Chief Curator for The Dayton Art Institute), and Tyler Stallings (Director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside).
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