Santa Monica Museum of Art Changes Name, Identity

  • SANTA MONICA, California
  • /
  • May 07, 2016

  • Email
New building sketch by wHY.

Executive Director Elsa Longhauser and the Board of Directors of the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA) announced an exciting institutional transformation beginning with a change of identity. The former Santa Monica Museum of Art will now be known as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA). The new name reflects the organization’s revitalized mission and new home in a classic industrial building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles’s vibrant Arts District.
This news is accompanied by the additional announcement of a capital campaign and the recognition of lead and major capital pledges totaling $1.9 million toward the ICA LA’s $5 million capital campaign goal. This campaign will enable the institution to realize its relocation in a newly renovated 12,700 square-foot space at 1717 E. 7th Street and to present a robust calendar of exhibitions, public programs, and partnerships.
The museum will be designed by internationally renowned architectural firm wHY under the leadership of founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast.
Reflecting on this transformative moment, ICA LA Executive Director Elsa Longhauser comments: “In my sixteen years as Executive Director, what gives me the greatest pleasure is knowing that this new beginning is built on the solid foundation of our past institutional vision and accomplishments. Our name and location may be changing, but what remains constant is our goal to reveal the vibrant, untold stories and pivotal moments in the history of contemporary art. Over its thirty-two-year history, the Santa Monica Museum of Art took pride in its courageous choices and singular point of view. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles will continue to champion these core values through a renewed and expanded lens. A burgeoning epicenter of artistic and cultural energy has recently emerged in downtown Los Angeles; ICA LA is thrilled to be part of this seismic shift.”
ICA LA Board of Directors' President, Laura Donnelley: “These epic strategic changes were truly put in motion after SMMoA’s 2015 departure from a seventeen-year tenancy at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center. Throughout our history we have served our communities in greater Los Angeles through exhibitions, programs, and outreach, but have now chosen to move to Downtown LA to reinvent and redefine our organization the way that only a non-collecting museum focused on innovation, diversity, and discovery can. We are delighted to welcome these timely changes of venue, additions of leadership, and to move forward in further defining ICA LA’s role within our city and our collective place in the ever-expanding international dialogue of art and culture.”
ICA LA’s new downtown home will be a 12,700-square-foot space that will bring together architecture, urban design, and sustainability to create cutting-edge environments for exhibitions, education, dialogue, and collaboration. It will include 7,000 square feet of dedicated exhibition space. The new ICA LA facility—slated to open in spring 2017—will also include ample public programming facilities, an experimental kitchen-café, and the popular GRACIE retail store.
ICA LA also moves forward with the recent appointment of four new members to its Board of Directors: Geoffrey Anenberg, Partner at Creative Space; Yuval Bar-Zemer, Partner at Linear City Development LLC; Vera Campbell, President of KWDZ Manufacturing, LLC (dba Knit Works/Beautees); and Jennifer Schwab, a sustainability education expert for (formerly Sierra Club Green Home)—all committed business and cultural leaders in downtown Los Angeles.  
ICA LA’s mission is to support art that sparks the pleasure of discovery and challenges the way we see and experience the world, ourselves, and each other. ICA LA is committed to upending hierarchies of race, class, gender, and culture. Through exhibitions, education programs, and community partnerships, ICA LA fosters critique of the familiar and empathy with the different. ICA LA will remain an admission-free, non-collecting museum (kunsthalle).
Renowned artist, Board Member, and ICA LA Artist Advisory Council Chair Charles Gaines comments: “Our Museum plays a special and unique role in the greater Los Angeles art community and is especially loved and admired by artists. As we take on this ambitious endeavor, we do so with the imperative that in supporting the growth of this institution we hold the future of the Los Angeles community and the international art world both in mind.”
Kulapat Yantrasast and wHY
wHY founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast has received numerous honors and awards, including recognition as one of the art world’s 100 Most Powerful People. In 2009, Yantrasast was the first architect to receive the Silpathorn Award for Design from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. Since 2005, he has served on the Artists’ Committee of the Americans for the Arts, the nation’s oldest organization for support of the arts. He also recently joined the board of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis.
Founded in 2004, wHY has emerged as an interdisciplinary design practice known for creating 21st century spaces for creative and engaged living. Based in Los Angeles and New York City, wHY’s ecology of disciplines explore ideas, buildings, grounds, and objects that embody the firm’s mission to generate work that integrates culture into everyday lives. Recent projects reflecting wHY’s expertise in the arts, sustainability and livability include: Speed Art Museum (2016), ‘To Live and Dine in LA’ (Library Foundation of Los Angeles, 2015), Pomona College Studio Art Hall (2014), galleries at the Harvard Art Museums and Art Institute of Chicago (2014, 2011), and Venice Beach House (2012). 
The History of SMMoA | ICA LA
Founded in 1984 by Abby Sher as the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’s history is founded on organizing exhibitions of internationally recognized artists, including first-ever United States solo museum exhibitions of artists Urs Fischer, Alvaro Siza, Jennifer Steinkamp, Al Taylor, Mickalene Thomas, and others, as well as important exhibitions with such luminary artists as Michael Asher, Laura Owens, Chris Ofili, Peter Doig, and Raymond Pettibon. Historically, many of these exhibitions have also shed light on art in Los Angeles—both its rich history and its vigorous present. During its tenure in Santa Monica, SMMoA organized over 250 exhibitions featuring more than 300 artists; welcomed over 1 million visitors; served over 100,000 students through award-winning community and educational programs and student exhibitions; and forged over 100 community partnerships.

For more information, visit:

  • Email

ARTFIXdaily Artwire