Santa Barbara Museum of Art reopening August 15

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art reopening takes place August 15, 2021 with renewed and expanded galleries following a six-year, $50 million renovation. Marking the Museum’s 80th anniversary this year, the renovation of SBMA’s original 1912 building improves SBMA’s exhibition space, making it possible to show more of the 27,000-object permanent collection. The updated facility will also enhance visitor experience through improved flow through the Museum.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art reopening will show off newly created galleries dedicated to contemporary art, photography, and new media. The renovation additionally addressed critical needs of the building, including seismic retrofitting; replacement of mechanical, air handling, and climate control systems; replacement of aging roofs; improved ventilation; creation of new storage and conservation areas to safeguard a growing collection; and construction of a new Art Receiving Facility and loading dock to ensure safe and efficient movement of art into and out of the building.

The transformation of the original 1912 structure highlights the restoration of original architectural features, including the rhythmic arches lining SBMA’s historic Ludington Court. This entry gallery contains limestone throughout, as does Thayer Gallery and the brand new Candace Dauphinot Grand Staircase, while other new galleries are appointed with rich oak flooring.

What you’ll see inside renovated Santa Barbara Museum of Art

For the Santa Barbara Museum of Art reopening, visitors will enter the State Street front doors to discover a brand-new installation conceived by SBMA Deputy Director and Chief Curator Eik Kahng, as a traditional salon-style hang with large-scale European and American paintings dating from the 17th century to the early 20th century intermixed with African and Pre-Columbian antiquities, as well as the Museum’s iconic monumental Roman marbles in Ludington Court. The Lansdowne Hermes, a dramatic new focal point, will be presented on a six-foot tall pedestal, echoing the intended elevation of the Greek original after which it was modeled.

The more intimate Thayer Gallery will showcase rotations of smaller objects. The inaugural selection includes ceramics from the ancient Americas and the ancient Mediterranean, spanning several thousand years. As visitors ascend the new grand staircase, they will encounter works focusing on the human face from a number of ancient civilizations.

The staircase and elevator access lead to a stunning new gallery—SBMA’s first space devoted to contemporary art, even though it has been a vital part of the Museum’s programming for the past 80 years. Skylit and suffused with soft sunlight, this new gallery’s inaugural installation will feature a shining mirrored orb by Anish Kapoor, a neon piece by Laddie John Dill, Tony de Los Reyes’s 1851 (#3) (2011), a green and black acrylic lens by Frederick Eversley, and paintings by likes of Kori Newkirk, Dorothy Hood, Helen Frankenthaler, and Roger Shimomura, among others.

Also on the second floor, Facing Forward: Portraits from the Collection, organized by SBMA Curator of Contemporary Art Charles Wylie, will present 25 works drawn from SBMA’s renowned collection of photographs. Featuring works by Kwame Brathwaite, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Genevieve Gaignard, and Tseng Kwong Chi, among others, the installation will provide a look at how the human face has remained a timeless and fascinating subject for modern and contemporary photographers.

The adjacent Ala Story Gallery will be devoted to new media. Its inaugural installation, Mediated Nature, will showcase video works from SBMA’s growing collection that explore how the contemporary experience of nature has been shaped and influenced by current media technologies.

Visitors interested in contemporary art will have additional opportunities for engagement in the new Gail Wasserman and Family Gallery, which leads to the newly renovated historic McCormick Gallery. These galleries will showcase In the Meanwhile…Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, which features paintings and sculptures added to the Museum’s collection by former SBMA curator Julie Joyce during the course of the renovation.

The refreshed and newly configured Sterling Morton, Campbell, and Gould Galleries next to Ludington Court will showcase a selection of works from China, Japan, and Korea, drawn from the Museum’s extensive permanent Asian Art collection and organized by SBMA Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art Susan Tai. These works, which span 5,000 years and represent a wide range of materials, celebrate the region’s diversely rich aesthetics. Highlights on view will include ancient ritual bronze vessels, clay, stone, and wooden sculptures created for tombs, temples, and homes, paintings in the forms of scrolls and screens, woodblock prints, lacquers, ceramics, and textiles made for daily consumption. This presentation is part of the multi-phased Asian Art reinstallation. Selections of art from the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas will be installed in Emma Wood Gallery later in the year.

The renovated Von Romberg Gallery and Emmons Gallery will feature FIRE, METAL, MONUMENT: BRONZE, an exhibition that explores the bronze medium across millennia and organized by SBMA Curator of Contemporary Art James Glisson. Divided into three sections, the first section features works from ancient China, the Middle East and the Greco-Roman world and will highlight the geographic range and sophistication of casting technologies across Eurasia. The second section explores portraiture and the depiction of movement including pairings of sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Willem de Kooning, which are displayed alongside sacred sculptures from Tibet. A third section considers bronze as a modern form of expression and includes work by Frederic Leighton, Alison Saar, and Louise Bourgeois.

The Preston Morton Gallery will feature highlights of American art from the permanent collection through a selection of 26 paintings and sculptures that tell the story of major achievements of American art from the first half of the last century—from the urban Realism of Robert Henri and the Ashcan School to the Symbolist inflected landscapes of Arthur Davies or Marsden Hartley, to the daring abstraction of Stuart Davis or Arthur Dove. The exhibition also emphasizes artists who have been critically overlooked in the past, including sculptors Malvina Hoffman and Alice Carr de Creeft, African American and pioneering queer artist Richmond Barthé, and the Japanese-born artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

In Ridley-Tree Gallery, a refreshed installation from the permanent collection highlights the dialogue between European and American art through a selection of 43 works of art from 1755 to 1947, with the majority dating to the 19th century.

The new SBMA Works on Paper Study Center will offer visitors a behind-the-scenes view into the process of researching and caring for the collection. The Study Center, located in the Davidson and Colefax Galleries, will allow curatorial staff to begin the long-awaited process of cataloguing, photographing, and digitizing over 20,000 works on paper that have been in off-site storage for several years. This project will vastly expand SBMA’s online collections, making it easier to learn more about the Museum’s world-class collection. Additionally, regularly scheduled “office hours” will enable visitors to interact with and pose questions to curators in the Center.

The Center’s first installation will feature watercolors by Picasso emulator Eugene Berman, lithographs by Pop artist James Rosenquist, and color prints by Los Angeles photographer Karen Halverson. The Center celebrates the ways in which these delicate and precious works offer unique insights into the artistic process, from the intimacy of drawing and painting on paper, to the technical innovations of printmaking and photography.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 



$10 Adults/$6 Seniors (65+)/$6 Child (ages 6 – 17)/Free for SBMA Members, Active U.S. Military and Families, Children under 6

Advanced tickets are encouraged for admission to the newly renovated galleries and can be purchased at


Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm

Thursday, 11 am – 8 pm

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