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Art From Us MUSEUM GUIDE : LACMA : Hammer Building – Egyptian Artefacts

Today we arrive at LACMA’s Hammer Building – collection of Egyptian Artefacts, in Los Angeles for our Museum Guide excursion, led by Divvya Nirula.

When the LACMA first opened its doors, it boasted of three buildings as part of its campus. The Ahmanson building, along with the Bing Centre and the Lytton Gallery were designed by William Pereira. The Lytton Gallery was renamed as the Hammer building in 1968. This decision was a consequence of a rift in ideals of the LACMA and Bart Lytton. Presented here are our top three must-see objects on view.

The three works in focus are :
1. Handled Jar with Boots, 1350-800 B.C.  Northern Iran
2. stamp seal hemisphereoid, 4th millennium B.C. Western Iran
3. four sons of horus, 664-525 B.C. Egypt

Image courtesy for artworks : LACMA

Some fun facts about the Museum :

  • Bart Lytton was famous American financier and businessman, Kennedy supporter and art collector. Around the 1960s, he was one of LACMA’s major donors. Resultantly, the Lytton Gallery was named after him.
  • The initial vision was that the gallery would exhibit and promote works by local artists of the American West Coast. However, as the museum expanded, this vision evolved. Several trustees felt it might be better to showcase international art in the museum. Exhibiting only local artists seemed limiting. Especially to a museum that could afford otherwise.
  • Lytton however, remained adamant on his stance. He expressed his point of view in saying : “The Medicis particularly promoted the artistic output of their beloved city of Florence…While I make no immodest presumption that I can begin to match the Medicis, I want to do what I can.”
  • Despite making a sizeable financial donation, Lytton made little contribution to the museum’s collection. And following the collapse of his business, he was hardly able to contribute even his money.
  • Owing to these factors Lytton eventually left the museum board. The Lytton name was removed from the LACMA gallery, and it was renamed the Frances & Armand Hammer Building, after the famous oil magnate and LACMA donors.

A Final Thought

In the 1990s, things turned ugly between the Hammers and the museum trustees. The LACMA had expected, and indeed been promised on several occasions, that Armand Hammer would display his collection at the museum. From works of the High Renaissance to the best of Modernism, the Hammer collection was impressive. And LACMA was itching to lay their hands on it. Not surprisingly therefore, tempers flew when Armand Hammer announced he would be exhibiting the works at his own museum – the Armand Hammer Museum of Art & Cultural Center.

Things got even messier when several lawsuits pursued. Some claiming Hammer had used business funds to build his museum. The outcome of the disagreement was that the Hammer collection was eventually not given to the LACMA. Armand Hammer expected the museum to devote far too many resources to displaying his personal collection, which they could ill afford. Apart from having its own curatorial team, the Hammer collection, if housed at the LACMA was also expected to be displayed all together, on an entire floor of the Hammer building. Museum trustees did not agree. And the final outcome left everyone feeling bitter and cheated.

An Update

In 2020, the LACMA demolished most of its original architecture, to make way for a new foundation. The Hammer building had also been razed to the ground in the process.

Visit Art From Us Archive for Museum Guide collated by Divvya Nirula. Here you shall find more suggestions on where you should visit next. And what you should see there. 

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