Chronological History of the Los Angeles Arts Association

1925: Museum Patrons Association forms to “speed up the sluggishness of the art department” which Museum Director William A. Bryan has spent little time activating.  Proactive Patrons include Harry Chandler (publisher of the Los Angeles Times), Edward Dickson (founder of UCLA), and William May Garland (civic leader who brought the 1932 Olympics to Los Angeles).   

1931:  Harry Muir Kurtzworth, first curator for Department since 1916, is hired for a year and a half.  In 1933 Kurtzworth becomes director of LAAA.  

1933: Museum Patrons Association decides to reconvene of its own accord.  Changes name to the Los Angeles Arts Association, operating as a non-profit, non-political organization, completely independent of the Los Angeles Museum.  In addition to Harry Chandler, Edward Dickson, and twenty other LAAA founders, Harvey Mudd, oil baron and founder of Mudd College joins the group. 

1934: LAAA owns 63 works of art and has 2,500 members.
LAAA hosts a landmark "All-California Art Exhibition" at the Biltmore Salon                     featuring the work of over 1,500 California artists.
LAAA exhibition of etchings by Rembrandt.

1936-1937: LAAA is located at 702 Subway Terminal Building.

1937: LAAA is located at the Central Library on 5th and Grand.
Loan Exhibition of International Art.  Artworks on view include Pablo Picasso’s “Woman With Blue Turban,” Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending the Stairs,” and Salvador Dali’s “L’eco Nostalgic”

Hollywood celebrities including Marion Davies and Edward G. Robinson play a major role in the success of loan exhibitions by making works of art from their private collections available to LAAA while Cecile B. Demille, Samuel Goldwyn, Norma Shearer Thalberg, and Hal Roach act as sponsoring patrons.

Major turnout for LAAA exhibition is noted in LA Times.  “The International Art exhibit at the Town House Annex on Wilshire Boulevard, which will close tomorrow evening, has attracted more than 200,000 persons to the “Old Masters” and great modern paintings during the last two months, H.M. Kurtzworth, director of the Los Angeles Arts Association announced yesterday.”

1938-1939: The county government purchases the property adjacent to the Otis Art Institute, the Earl Mansion at 2425 Wilshire Boulevard, for $99,000.  LAAA relocates their headquarters to the Mansion, establishing a centrally located downtown art gallery for the people of Los Angeles.

1940’s: Due to the existence of the County Museum, LAAA shifts focus and becomes an organization devoted to encouraging and exhibiting works by contemporary southern California artists.

Man Ray exhibits at the LAAA Earl Mansion location.

1940-1941: Due to the new focus of the County Museum, some LAAA Board Members step down and donate their large collections of art to the County Museum, helping to form the foundation for what will become the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA].  By 1947 Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison contribute 267 artworks to what later became LACMA.  

William May Garland remains president of LAAA until 1940, W. Bertrand Stevens becomes president in 1941

Harry Chandler remains on the LAAA board of trustees and becomes Vice President of LAAA in 1941

1944: LAAA receives notice to vacate on grounds that the Otis Art Institute anticipates a high enrollment of returning soldiers and needs the extra space but LAAA insists that their gallery of art serves just as valuable a role in the community as the school did and secures the rights to remain at the Earl Mansion for thirteen more years.

Helen Wurdemann, art critic for Art in America magazine, becomes new Executive Director.  Helen Wurdemann, also known as Italian Baroness Helen Guzzardi, continues to work at LAAA full-time and without salary for over 40 years. Stephen Longstreet and Lorser Feitelson are key supporters of Wurdemann.

Lorser Feitelson, the artist who invented “hard-edge” painting and was host of the 1960's NBC series, "Art in Our Times," assists Wurdemann in running LAAA.

 1948: Wayne Thiebaud exhibits with LAAA in the exhibition "Artists under 33" Curated by Lorser Feitelson.

1951: First solo exhibition in LAAA history features Hans Burkhardt and is curated by Lorser Feitelson.

1957: The Earl Mansion is bulldozed in order to build a parking lot for the Otis Art Institute and, with only $300 in the bank, LAAA seems as if it will be forced out of business.  Amazingly the artist members organize an auction at the Art Center, College of Art and Design in Pasadena, that raises $10,000 and with that money Wurdemann is able to rent a storefront space at 8317 Beverly Blvd.

1960: Purchased with funds from Helen Wurdemann, as well as proceeds from an auction of artworks donated by member artists, LAAA relocates to current 825 North La Cienega address in the area, which will later be known as “Gallery Row.

Although some members of the community at the time consider the Association to be quite conservative both politically and artistically, active collectors such as Vincent Price, Julie Andrews and Tab Hunter are among the Hollywood celebrities who frequent the gallery and purchase work.

1970’s: Nationally respected writer Stephen Longstreet is named LAAA Board President and Shirley Burden as Vice President.  

1979: LAAA publishes “Lorser Feitelson Drawings” edited by Stephen Longstreet.

1980’s: After Helen Wurdemann retires, former LAAA artist Richard Campbell assumes the role of Executive Director of the Association.  

Wishing to bring the “cutting-edge” back to La Cienega, Campbell introduces juried shows at LAAA for the first time.

1986: Jubilee Retrospective an exhibition featuring over 60 artists who have shown work at LAAA galleries over the past 60 years including Hans Burkhardt, Man Ray, and Millard Sheets.

1993: Amy Perez joins Campbell as co-director and is credited with renaming the La Cienega Location “Gallery 825” (more representative of the contemporary direction LAAA was headed in.)

2002: Gallery 825 acquires an Annex at Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA. 

2004 - 2005: Some of LAAA’s exhibition jurors include: Carl Berg, Carl Berg Gallery; Eleana Del Rio, Koplin Del Rio Gallery; James Elaine, The Hammer Museum; and Tim Wride, former curator at the Los Angles County Museum of Art.

2005: Peter Mays, formerly Director of the Galef Institute and the Tierra del Sol Foundation is appointed Executive Director of LAAA/Gallery 825. Mays’ focus on including LAAA in the international contemporary art discussion and expansion of artist career preparedness trainings continue to this day.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of LAAA/Gallery 825, an exhibition (August 27 – September 24) featuring a selection of artists who have exhibited and participated throughout the association’s history including Man Ray, Duchamp and Wayne Thiebaud is organized by curator Molly Barnes.

2006: Internationally renowned artist Tim Hawkinson collaborates with six    LAAA artists on the celebrated Sweater installation at Gallery 825.

LAAA launches its international reach with exhibits the prestigious Insa Art Center in Seoul Korea.

2007: The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and LAAA present the first of three exhibitions featuring the work of artists with paralysis and spinal cord injury.

2008: LAAA celebrates its shared history with Otis College of Art and Design with Otis at 825, part of Otis’s 90th Anniversary programming.

LAAA and the City of West Hollywood presents the first of annual Out There exhibitions, celebrating the LGBT experience during Pride Month.

Nancy Kaye, formerly of LACMA’s Rental Gallery begins a long tenure on LAAA staff.

2009: LAAA’s Film and Video 825 video art program begins a series of screenings and artists talks at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM).

2010: LAAA partners with Cal Tech on SEE THRU, an exhibition/mentorship with emerging artists exploring the physiology of seeing.

LAAA celebrates 85 years with Measure for Measure, curated by world renowned physicist Lisa Randall and artist Lia Halloran at Gallery 825. Measure for Measure later travels to Harvard University and Chapman University.

2012: Los Angeles Art Association begins its thrice annual Ping Pong exhibitions - multi-destination, cross-cultural collaborations featuring artists from Los Angeles, Miami and Basel during Art Basel, Art Basel Miami Beach, and The LA Art Show.

LAAA and the LA Department of Cultural Affairs present Second Skin, a performance art exhibit and event.

The Women’s Caucus of Art Celebrates its 40th Anniversary with Momentum, a national exhibition of women arts at Gallery 825.

2014: LAAA’s collector group LAAAb begins with exclusive tours to private art collections and exhibits, artists’ studios and art travel (Cuba).

2015: LAAA celebrates 90 years of service to artists at its Annual Benefit Auction.

LAAA partners with LA Department of Cultural Affairs for Multiple Feeds an online and gallery video exhibition and Forum for experimental video programming.

2006 - 2016: Some of LAAA’s exhibition jurors include: Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin, LACMA curators Howard Fox, Rita Gonzales and Leslie Jones, MOCA Director Jeremy Strick, MASS MoCA curator Susan Cross, Gagosian Gallery’s Charlie Manzo, SFMoMa curator Apsara Dequizno and Perez Art Museum Director Franklin Sirmans.