Orange County Museum of Art Is One Step Closer to A Permanent Home

Slated to open in 2021, the Thom Mayne-designed building has been more than a decade coming. But it looks worth the wait.

It was standing room only, and the biggest celebrity of the day was a hole in the ground. This morning, excitement filled the air as community members and city officials gathered together at the groundbreaking of the Orange County Museum of Art within Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Mark Perry, Board Chair for Segerstrom Center for the Arts asked the crowd to take their thumb and index and place it on their shoulder to pinch themselves. “This is incredible. This is happening,” he said. “We’ve got a hole out there.”

Slated to open in 2021, the Thom Mayne-designed building has been more than a decade coming. “It’s a story of perseverance,” said Perry. But it looks worth the wait.

Get a glimpse of the future home of the Orange County Museum of Art. Click right and left to see the different images below:

“Our new home will be a place to stroke your imagination,” said Todd D. Smith, OCMA director and CEO, “In other words, it will be a place that reminds us of the gift of being human.”

Renderings from Morphosis Architects show a horizontally undulating structure of glazed terracotta paneling meant to play off the neighboring Cesar Pelli-designed Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall and the Segerstrom Hall by Charles Lawrence. It was also meant to complement Richard Serra’s unapologetically vertical piece, “Connector.”

With 53,000-square feet of building space, OCMA promises to be a catalyst for urban connection and conversation. The design has about 50 percent more exhibition space than its former Newport Beach location, allowing it to showcase more of its permanent collections in modern and contemporary art. The main floor is meant to be an open-span exhibition space, while mezzanine and street-fronting galleries can accommodate temporary and permanent exhibitions.

Perhaps one of the largest draws to the new building is its deft thought around interior and exterior space. In the spirit of informal gathering spaces such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art steps in New York City or the Spanish Steps in Rome, Mayne’s vision includes an exterior grand staircase that curves around the “Connector,” an informal invitation to the public to stay and linger. A roof terrace, about 70% of the building’s footprint, is also meant to serve as an extension of the gallery spaces. Al fresco areas could also be used for installations, outdoor film screenings, or events.

We sat down with Director and CEO Todd D. Smith to ask him how arts and culture will change with the arrival of the museum at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

How does the future of the museum change with this building?

T: It changes so much. We get to be in the center of the arts community in Orange County, be part of a center that attracts a million people a year to performing arts events and we now get to add the visual art component to that experience.

For the institution, it means we have more space to work in, state of the art galleries that would be able to accommodate showcasing our own collection, but also traveling exhibitions from all over the world.

Getting to this point is no mean feat. What are your challenges now?

T: Today there are no challenges. Today is all about celebration, but tomorrow we continue our fundraising projects to complete the project. We’re announcing today that we’ve reached 65% of our goal. I’m very thrilled that we’ve reached that point already in our project, and then we will continue to fundraise throughout the two years. With the groundbreaking today, we will be able to talk to the public in greater depth and more publicly about the project.

How would the programming for the museum change when this site opens to the public?

T: More that [our programming will] expand. We’ve been known mostly as a museum of modern and contemporary art, that will stay the same. Our collection is the core of what we do and that is a collection of mostly post World War II California-based artists and that will be showcased in the new museum, but we will be able to start hosting exhibitions from institutions all around the wall in a state-of-the-art exhibition hall and really be able to expand the programming we do in the traditional arts, but also architecture, design, really expanding what an art museum does.

What I love about the design is how it weaves indoor and outdoor. Would it be something your artists will be able to take advantage of?

T: That’s what we’re hoping for. If you look at the renderings, the sculpture terrace has a great area for temporary sculpture, but we’re really excited to start working with artists for really interactive sculpture.

It’s amazing the quality of the sculpture that already exists here. The Richard Serra sculpture is right in front of our building and really our design was meant to embrace it. You’ve got Henry Moore, Juan Miro, you’ve got other examples of 20th-century sculpture that the museum can now be a part of.

While waiting for the opening in 2021 however, how will the museum bridge past and future at the museum?

T: Well, we have this temporary location in South Coast Plaza Village. It’s a former furniture square room. It’s thirty-something thousand square feet and we’re programming it with young and emerging artists from the Pacific Rim and that’s an area of specific focus for our institution for finding and developing new talent, not just in California but throughout the Pacific. Starting tomorrow we will have a whole new set of exhibitions at that location and we encourage people to check us out.

On view starting September 21, six new exhibitions of works by artists from the Pacific Rim deal with the complexities of humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Participating artists include arolina Caycedo (b. 1978, United States/Colombia), Daniel Duford (b. 1968, United States), Ximena Garrido-Lecca (b 1980, Peru/Mexico), Mulyana (b. 1984, Indonesia), Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983, Singapore), and Yang Yongliang (b. 1980, China).  For more information click here.