Newly remodeled Hammer Museum now occupies entire city block

By Zeke Reed

The Hammer Museum recently opened a new entryway and lobby complete with large-scale art installations. Photo by Eric Staudenmaier.

One of LA’s most iconic art institutions just got a big makeover. The Hammer Museum in Westwood, part of UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture, now occupies an entire city block on Wilshire Boulevard. 

It first opened in 1990 and has been steadily expanding its collection and footprint ever since. This latest addition further ties the museum to its surrounding environment through a new glass entryway and an outdoor sculpture terrace. 

Lindsay Preston Zappas, the founder of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles and a regular art insider on KCRW, says the upgrades represent two decades of work at the museum. 

“The theater came in 2006. In 2012, there was a big redesign of the courtyard and the cafe. In 2015 that bridge was added that connects the two sides of the second floor galleries. This last renovation is significant because they say their grand plans are finally done, and the vision that they've had for 20 years is coming to completion here.”

The reimagined entrance and outdoor art are intended to make the space feel more welcoming to the public. New additions include a LED billboard, prominent sculptures on the corner of Wilshire and Glendon, and a lobby with large-scale art that’s visible from the street. 

Chiharu Shiota’s elaborate lobby installation features hundreds of thousands of red yarn threads. Photo credit: Jeff Mclane.

Preston Zappas says the design choices and added space — some 40,000 new square feet — will aid in the museum's curatorial and programmatic endeavors. 

“I think the Hammer has done a great job of public programming and events … and I think this new expansion will allow for more of that, but also more site specific installations. … I'm excited to see how the museum will take advantage of the variety of spaces that it now has, and see how artists will adapt their work to those spaces.”’

“Particulates” by artist Rita McBride is on display in the Hammer’s new bank vault addition. Photo credit: Joshua White.