Prolific art curator Walter Hopps, best known for organizing roughly 250 shows for important post-World War II artists, died Sunday, March 20th, during his visit to Santa Monica. He was 72.
Hopps was in town curating Hot Set, a retrospective of assemblage art by sculptor George Herms, at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.
Museum officials say Hot Set will remain on display as originally planned through Saturday, May 14th.
“I think it makes it even more meaningful, seeing that it’s the last exhibition he curated in his illustrious career,” says Alexandra Pollyea, a spokeswoman for Santa Monica Museum of Art.
“It was an extraordinary experience to work with him especially because he is such an art world legend,” says Lisa Melandri, deputy director of exhibitions and programs at Santa Monica Museum of Art.
Hopps had been in frail health for some time, according to media reports.
Hopps was founding director of The Menil Collection in Houston; adjunct senior curator of 20th century art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; co-founder of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and the founder of the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Hopps was first introduced to Herms’s work in 1962 as curator and director of the Pasadena Art Museum.
Hopps and Herms hosted a public discussion of Hot Set at Santa Monica Museum of Art on Tuesday, March 8th, which had delved into the veteran curator’s vast knowledge of Los Angeles art history, says Melandri.
Hopps’s 1963 exhibit of works by Dada artist Marcel Duchamp is considered an important and memorable event in 20th century art history.
“He was known for the great passion with which he approached his curatorial endeavors,” says Melandri. “This latest show [Hot Set] was a marriage of Walter’s vision and Herms’s art.”
Melandri says that Hopps was known to work in-depth with an artist for four to five years on certain important exhibits.
Hopps was currently living in Houston, but well-known for his career contributions to the Los Angeles art scene.