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April 1965 - L.A. County Museum of Art Opens on Wilshire Boulevard

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Fireworks at LACMA
Fireworks above Los Angeles County Museum of Art during dedication ceremony. | Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA Library, Digital Collections/Creative Commons License

In April 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its new, dedicated complex along the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard, as the largest art museum in the west.

The museum began in 1913 as part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art (Now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) in Exposition Park. As the collection outgrew its designated space in the Exposition Park, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was established as its own museum in 1961 with trustee Howard F. Ahmanson, Sr. contributing the initial $2 million to help finance a new, dedicated location for its collection.

The museum found its new home on the western end of a large county-owned plot of land along Wilshire Boulevard, already affiliated with the Museum of Natural History as part of Rancho La Brea, which contained its famed tar pits and archaeological excavations.

Upon its 1965 opening, the museum consisted of three buildings: The Ahmanson Building, housing its permanent collections, the Lytton Gallery (now the Hammer Building), housing special exhibitions, and the 600-seat Bing Theater for public programs. It was already one of the largest new art museums built in the United States.

In 1986, the Anderson Building (now the Art of the Americas Building) opened to house modern and contemporary art collections. In 1988, the Pavilion for Japanese Art opened, and in 1994, the museum purchased the iconic former May Company department store at Wilshire and Fairfax, designating it as LACMA West.

In 2008, the three-story Broad Contemporary Art Museum, specializing in postwar art, opened. In 2010, the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion opened, housing a rotating selection of large exhibitions.

The Museum continues to grow and expand to this day, with a proposal for a new structure, designed by Peter Zumthor, stretching across Wilshire Boulevard.

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