Saturday, October 8, 2022

Orange County Museum of Art

By Eric Harris

OCMA, the Orange County Museum of Art, has a new home! On Saturday, October 8, 2022, OCMA opened its new building to the public. The completion of the new museum represents a huge milestone for the organization. The museum’s expansion has been in the works for more than 15 years. The 53,000 square foot building, described as “a new cultural landmark for modern and contemporary art,” was designed by architecture firm Morphosis under the direction of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and Partner-In-Charge Brandon Welling.

OCMA Exterior

Twice the size of the museum’s previous building in Newport Beach, the new building is located on the campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts performing arts complex, adjacent to the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, and within walking distance of South Coast Plaza in the city of Costa Mesa. The new location is more accessible and centrally located for Southern California visitors and residents.

OCMA Interior

Architectural details, such as grand stairs, non-90-degree angles, swoops, curves, bridges, and dramatic windows, scream art museum! The grand stairs and the “plant-i-levered” (plants + cantilevered) design of the building’s terrace and rooftop garden are particularly notable. Also of note is the museum admission fee. $0. Zero. OCMA will offer free general admission for the next 10 years.

OCMA Exterior

OCMA opens with five inaugural exhibitions.

OCMA Gallery


California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold (October 8, 2022 – February 26, 2023) is the latest chapter in OCMA’s reoccurring two-year program. The current exhibition explores California contemporary art and artists and includes more than 60 works in a variety of disciplines. Pacific Gold is organized by Elizabeth Armstrong (previous OCMA curator), Essence Harden (Visual Arts Curator at the California African Arts Museum), and Gilbert Vicario (Chief Curator at the Phoenix Art Museum). Since the OCMA Biennial began in 1984, the Orange County Museum of Art has presented the work of more than 300 artists.

Installation view: California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold. OCMA.

This exhibition showcases a healthy mix of ceramics, mixed-media, painting, sculpture, textiles, and video. There is even some taxidermy thrown in there. Many of the pieces are large in scale and/or colorful. One particularly fun work is Simphiwe Ndzube’s Ndlovukazi (2022) which is a sculpture of a creature with three legs, a goofy face, and infectious, Mona Lisa smile.

Simphiwe Ndzube’s Ndlovukazi (2022). OCMA.

Installation view: California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold. OCMA..

13 Women (October 8, 2022- August 20, 2023) pays homage to thirteen women who founded the Balboa Pavilion Gallery in 1962. Orange County Museum of Art CEO and Director Heidi Zuckerman curates a rotating selection of art from the 1960s and later. The October 8, 2022 rotation includes works by Alice Aycock, Joan Brown, Lee Bul, Lucy Bull, Sarah Cain, Vija Celmins, Mary Corse, Mary Heilmann, Barbara Kruger, Cady Noland, Catherine Opie, Hilary Pecis, and Agnes Pelton.

Installation view: 13 Women. OCMA

Chris Burden, Large Glass Ship, 1983. OCMA.

Installation view: 13 Women. OCMA.

In addition, 13 Women exhibits selected works from OCMA’s Collection including Charles Ray’s Ink Box (1986). Ink Box was one of the Things to Do in LA team’s favorite works on display. Ink Box is an appropriate title for the steel cube that houses 200 gallons of black printer’s ink. At first pass, one thinks, “that’s a big black cube.” On closer inspection, one realizes that the top of the cube is not solid, but rather liquid. The printer’s ink has an unusual quality in that the material is intensely black yet reflective at the same time. If one looks closely, one can see dust settling on the surface of the ink as well as reflections of the ceiling lights and nearby exhibits. Very cool. Don’t get too close because the museum staff will chase you away. And for good reason. This is an open vat of ink! If you touch the seductively attractive surface, you will get covered in ink, as one unfortunate journalist discovered during the media preview.

Museum staff cleaning Charles Ray's Ink Box, 1986. OCMA.
Museum staff cleaning spilled ink from Charles Ray's Ink Box (1986) after the work was touched by an unwitting attendee.

Of Many Waters… (2022) [by Sanford Biggers] (October 8, 2022 – August 13, 2023), commissioned for the opening of the new OCMA building, is located on the upper plaza. This figure is a large-scale 24-foot-wide by 16-foot-tall multimedia sculpture. The work is described as combining “an archetype of a European reclining male figure with a 19th-century Baule double-face mask assembled from metal sequins.” This is the artist’s largest sequined sculpture to date. Sparkly!

Of Many Waters… (2022) by Sanford Biggers. OCMA.

Fred Eversley: Reflecting Back (the World) (October 8, 2022 – January 15, 2023) is organized by OCMA Chief Curator Courtenay Finn and expands on Eversley’s 1976-1977 OCMA (Newport Harbor Art Museum) exhibition. Eversley’s sculptures are based on geometric forms and parabolic lenses. His works are cast from resin and display complex optical properties such as color gradients and varying degrees of transparency and opacity. “Moving from dark to light, and through the entire color spectrum, the constellation of works makes connections across 30 years of Eversley’s practice, creating a heightened experience of seeing and being in space.”

Installation view Fred Eversley: Reflecting Back (the World). OCMA

Peter Walker: Minimalist Landscape (October 8, 2022 – January 15, 2023) is curated by Ziying Duan. Appropriate for a minimalist, this is the minimalist-ist (smallest) of the current OCMA exhibitions. Walker is a legendary landscape architect, and this exhibit features two recently commissioned architectural models of Segerstrom Center for the Arts campus details—Fountains and Plantings, the entry court for Cesar Pelli’s Plaza Tower, and Arrival Gardens, the ramped entrance to the Performing Arts Center.

Peter Walker: Minimalist Landscape. Architectural model of Arrival Gardens.


Restaurants and Gift Store

With two dining options, OCMA offers the Fueling Station coffee bar on the first level and the Verdant café including The Sweet James Bergener Bar on the second level. Verdant will feature a “plant-forward” menu based on local and seasonal produce—very artsy and fitting for a Southern California museum. Plant-forward in this context means the menu is mostly vegetarian and vegan. However, we have been assured that diners will have the option of adding meat, poultry, or fish to their meals.

Verdant Café table spread
Verdant Café table spread. Picture provided by OCMA.

The museum gift store, The Mind, is operated by Emmanuel Renoird and Nicolas Libert, the creators of the concept store Please Do Not Enter. While displaying typical art museum goods such as art, books, clothing, jewelry, and other items, the store feels a bit more like an art gallery than a museum store. Some items on display, such as vintage technology artifacts and pop art busts, could easily be mistaken for being part of the museum.

The Mind, OCMA

The Mind, OCMA

The mirrored sculptural display case by LA-based artist Sébastian Léon is one of the highlights of the store. This sculpture/case displays smaller items such as jewelry. In addition to being an interesting-looking sculpture, this display case has its own electronic music soundtrack composed by the Léon in collaboration with platinum-record artist Joshua Carter of Phantogram. Listen to the sculpture here. Is this retail or art? Your guess is as good as ours. We don’t often get excited about display cases; however, this case is an exception.

Léontophone, Sébastian Léon

Léontophone, Sébastian Léon

Closing Thoughts 

OCMA’s expansion and new building is a significant addition to the Orange County, California cultural landscape. The Morphosis-designed building with intriguing curves and angles is stunning, and the programming is well-done. But let’s face it. Modern and contemporary art may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and programming can be hit-or-miss depending on one’s background and/or interests. However, the $0 general admission fee makes visiting OCMA an attractive cultural experience. Moreover, the new location, just minutes (walking) from South Coast Plaza, makes OCMA easily accessible as a standalone trip or as an add-on to other Orange County adventures or shopping.

Installation view: California Biennial 2022: Pacific Gold. OCMA..

A note to social media users and influencers. OCMA allows visitors to “take and share non‐flash, personal‐use photography except where noted. Tripods, panoramas, and selfie sticks are not permitted.” “Artworks marked with no photography symbol may not be photographed.” OCMA’s building and galleries present a variety of interesting shots and TTDILA recommends a lens wider than 24mm (35mm equivalent) for capturing certain angles of the building. Visit before noon for the best exterior images as the quality of afternoon sunlight may be harsh and the direction of the sun may be the opposite direction of that desired.

Eric Harris, TTDILA


OCMA / Orange County Museum of Art
3333 Avenue of the Arts
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

OCMA Exterior

(714) 780-2130
[email protected]

Museum hours (Beginning October 11, 2022)
Tuesday–Wednesday, Sunday 10am–6pm
Thursday–Saturday 10am–8pm

OCMA Exterior