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  • Shawn Kocab

The Norton Simon Museum

Updated: May 19, 2023

The Norton Simon Museum is a world-renowned art museum located in Pasadena, California. The museum boasts an impressive collection of artworks from different periods and cultures, making it a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts.

The museum was originally founded in 1922 as the Pasadena Art Institute. Over the years, the institution underwent several changes and expansions, finally becoming the Norton Simon Museum in 1975. The museum was named after its benefactor, Norton Simon, who was a prominent industrialist and art collector.

One of the highlights of the Norton Simon Museum is its collection of European art. The museum houses works by some of the most celebrated artists of all time, including Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas. Visitors can marvel at Van Gogh's "Bedroom in Arles" or Rembrandt's "Self-Portrait with Two Circles." The museum also has an impressive collection of sculptures, including Rodin's "The Thinker" and Giacometti's "Woman with Her Throat Cut."

The museum's Asian art collection is also noteworthy, featuring works from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The collection includes intricately crafted jade sculptures, rare porcelain pieces, and ancient bronze artifacts. Visitors can explore the stunning array of Buddhist sculptures and paintings, which offer insights into the religious and cultural traditions of the region.

The Norton Simon Museum is also home to a collection of modern and contemporary art. Visitors can explore works by artists such as Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Rauschenberg. The museum's collection of Pop art is particularly impressive, featuring some of the most iconic works of the movement.

Aside from its impressive collection of artworks, the Norton Simon Museum is also known for its beautiful architecture and serene gardens. The museum's building was designed by architect Robert E. Langdon Jr., who created a modernist structure that blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. The museum's gardens are a tranquil oasis, featuring carefully curated plant species and beautiful water features.

Visitors can also take advantage of the museum's various educational programs and events. The Norton Simon Museum offers lectures, workshops, and classes on various topics related to art and culture. The museum also hosts a variety of special exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing works by emerging and established artists.

One of the most unique aspects of the Norton Simon Museum is its emphasis on the experience of viewing art. The museum's galleries are designed to create an immersive and contemplative environment, allowing visitors to engage with the artworks on a deeper level. The museum's curators carefully select and arrange artworks to create meaningful and thought-provoking exhibitions.

The Norton Simon Museum is also committed to accessibility, offering a range of accommodations for visitors with disabilities. The museum is wheelchair accessible and offers audio guides, large print materials, and ASL interpretation for select events and exhibitions. In addition to its permanent collection, the Norton Simon Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions offer visitors the opportunity to explore different themes and artistic styles, and often feature works on loan from other museums and private collections.

One recent exhibition that garnered attention was "Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor." The exhibition showcased the lesser-known side of Edgar Degas as a sculptor, featuring over 70 of his sculptures alongside related paintings, drawings, and prints. The exhibition provided a unique glimpse into Degas' artistic process and highlighted his innovative approach to sculpture.

Another recent exhibition was "Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific," which explored the art and culture of the Fiji Islands. The exhibition featured over 200 artworks, including intricate woodcarvings, ceremonial objects, and textiles. Visitors were able to learn about the rich cultural traditions of the Fiji Islands and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of the artworks.

The Norton Simon Museum also offers a range of educational programs and resources for visitors of all ages. The museum's Art Together program provides free art-making activities for families on weekends, while its Art & Garden series offers guided tours of the museum's gardens followed by hands-on art activities.

The museum also offers educational resources for teachers and students, including lesson plans, online exhibitions, and guided tours. These resources allow students to learn about different artistic styles and cultures and engage with artworks on a deeper level.

In addition to its educational programs, the Norton Simon Museum also has a robust online presence. The museum's website features virtual tours of the galleries, as well as online exhibitions and collections. The museum also has an active social media presence, with regular updates and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the museum's activities and exhibitions. Visitors to the Norton Simon Museum can also enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee at the museum's café. The café offers a range of delicious dishes and beverages, as well as a serene atmosphere for visitors to relax and reflect on their museum experience.

Overall, the Norton Simon Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in art and culture. With its impressive collection, stunning architecture, and commitment to accessibility and education, the museum offers something for everyone. Whether you're a local resident or a visitor to Southern California, the Norton Simon Museum is a cultural gem that should not be missed.

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