The Orange County Museum of Art—the final installment in a long-cherished vision of Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts as a cultural epicenter—will soon welcome the public to its permanent home in the most unusual way.
A 24-hour opening celebration for the new museum begins at 5 p.m. on October 8 with a drumming procession down the Avenue of the Arts, winding to a rooftop where fireworks are expected.
This is followed by a series of tours and live performances, a rooftop dance party, silent disco with headphones, films for the insomniac, tarot readings, aura photography and sunrise yoga.
“It starts at 5 p.m. and will literally last until 5 p.m. Sunday night,” OCMA director and executive director Heidi Zuckerman said Wednesday during a media preview of the $93 million complex and its inaugural exhibits.
“I hope we will surprise you. I hope you’ll discover artists you’ve never seen before, and I hope you’ll see artists you know in unexpected ways.”
The 53,000-square-foot space features reconfigurable galleries that house temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, as well as selections from the museum’s 4,500-piece permanent collection
OCMA Chief Curator Courtenay Finn called it a first in the museum’s 60-year history.
“We’re able to pull works out of storage and tell stories around them and really show the breadth and depth of the collection, something the museum couldn’t do before,” she said.
Just as important as the interior galleries are several spaces outside the new structure, designed by Culver City-based architectural firm Morphosis, led by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and managing partner Brandon Welling.
The huge roof terrace, as well as an education pavilion, café and museum shop are positioned to encourage a relationship between indoors and outdoors.
Mayne said it took a decade of working with museum officials to develop a vision that would serve not only as a showcase for art, but also as a public space that would expand the museum’s audience by serving as a connective tissue in the community .
“We got into it very early on not to build a building, another shiny object, but to build a public space,” he said. “We thought it would be nice to build a piazza in Orange County. This community is now ready for this type of public space.”
Attendees of Wednesday’s preview strolled through the expansive galleries and enjoyed guided tours filled with architectural annotations and observations.
The five inaugural exhibitions include California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold, a survey of contemporary art by celebrated and emerging artists from across the state that began in 1984 and has been revived for its reopening with 60 works, including some created specifically for the new room.
13 Women marks the Museum’s Diamond Jubilee by honoring the original founders of the Balboa Pavilion Gallery, OCMA’s predecessor, with works created by 13 pioneering female artists that reflect the qualities of the Museum’s founders.
“Of many waters…”, a multimedia outdoor sculpture created by Los Angeles-born, New York-based artist Sanford Biggers, is the visual centerpiece of the building’s terrace. Standing 16 feet tall and 24 feet wide and covered in metal sequins, the figure invokes the spirit river gods and serves as a blessing for the opening of the building.
Zuckerman said the piece, on display through August 13, 2023, marks the space as a place for people to gather, encounter art and engage in conversation.
“If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s how much we need the experience of common spaces, where new connections can be made and unexpected conversations can be had,” she said. “That’s where the sparks of creativity fly.”
Officials shared their desire for the new space to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone. This vision is supported by Newport Beach-based Lugano Diamonds, whose owners have donated $2.5 million to enable OCMA to offer free admission on opening night and for the next 10 years.
“There is no economic barrier to experiencing our exhibits and our programs,” Zuckerman said.
In a note Wednesday, OCMA Trustee Anton Segerstrom shared how his father, Henry Segerstrom, who transformed acres of Orange County lima bean fields into a center of commercial and cultural activity, believed in the power of art to uplift communities.
“For me personally, this day has a special meaning. It is the realization of a family dream and the culmination of 16 years of personal work,” he said. “This is a great day for Orange County.”
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