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SMMOA Celebrates the Life of Walter Hopps:

The extraordinary life and accomplishments of legendary curator Walter Hopps (1932-2005) will be celebrated on May 3, his birthday, at Santa Monica Museum of Art.

The celebration will at 6:30 p.m. with remarks by Elsa Longhauser, executive director of the museum, Josef Helfenstein, director of The Menil Collection, and artist George Herms.

At 7 p.m. Roberto Miranda will perform and light refreshments will be served.

Hopps’ work as Founding Director of The Menil Collection in Houston capped a stunning 50-year career at the heart of the American art world. Always an innovator and groundbreaker, in 1957, he and artist Edward Kienholz founded the Ferus Gallery, which played a seminal role in advancing contemporary art in California. As Director of the Pasadena Art Museum, Hopps curated the first museum exhibition of Pop Art, “New Painting of Common Objects” in 1962 and in the following three years he assembled the first retrospectives of French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp. New York’s brilliant and reclusive Joseph Cornell and the first American retrospective of Kurt Schwitters.

Hopps’s work as a curator was singularly influential. In 1965 at the São Paulo Bienal, he presented the art of Barnett Newman and six other artists, including Frank Stella and Robert Irwin. In l972, at the Venice Biennale, he included the challenging photography of Diane Arbus, the first Biennale presentation of photography as an art form. Subsequent Hopps’ exhibitions included the 1976 retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg at the National Museum of American Art for the nation’s Bicentennial. In 1991 for The Menil Collection, Hopps organized the landmark exhibition “Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, ” co-organized a second Rauschenberg retrospective in 1997 and the James Rosenquist retrospective in 2003, both at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and at The Menil Collection. Hopps also curated the major Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz retrospective for the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1996.

In 2001, the Menil Foundation established The Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, which is given biennially to support and recognize talented individuals whose exhibitions reflect the vision, courage, and integrity that were at the heart of Hopps’s achievements.

Gifts in memory of Walter Hopps can be made by contributing to the Menil Foundation for the purpose of The Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement. Donations can be mailed to Elsian Cozens, Menil Foundation, 1515 Branard Street, Houston Texas 77006; (713) 525-9451.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art is located at Bergamot Station.A second celebration will be held in Houston on May 17 at The Menil Collection. Both celebrations are free and open to the public. For information, contact Vance Muse, The Menil Collection, (713) 525-9404.

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