In the 1970s, industrialist and art enthusiast Norton Simon had a collection of more than 4,000 objects and was looking for a place to house the works. As a result, the financially ailing Pasadena Art Museum became the Norton Simon Museum.
Built in 1969 from the design by Thornton Ladd and John Kelsey (the exterior is covered with 115,000 tiles made by Edith Heath), the museum underwent a major renovation and redesign in 1995.
The museum offers an impressive collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century, south and southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years, and modern and contemporary art from Europe and the U.S. Although it contains more than 12,000 objects, only about 1,000 are on view at any given time in the galleries and gardens. The museum makes use of three temporary exhibition galleries for rotating installations of artworks from the permanent collection, so it’s a good place to frequent for fans of the 19th-century masters and Impressionists.
Illuminating short films about the collection, including The Art of Norton Simon and Sister Wendy at the Norton Simon Museum, are shown daily in the Norton Simon Theater, free with admission.
- Public Transportation: Excellent (bus lines 180 and 181 and the Pasadena ARTS Bus shuttle stop directly in front of the museum; rail service is also convenient)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday noon–6 p.m., Friday noon–9 p.m., closed Tuesday
- Admission: $8, seniors (62 and above) $4, students and patrons under 18 free; admission is free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m. Free admission for staff of other museums and one guest upon presentation of identification
- Tours: Free. The museum offers public tours on the first Friday of every month and free Spotlight Talks, also on Fridays. Both programs are led by museum educators. Tours start at 7 p.m. in the entrance gallery and last approximately 45 minutes. Spotlight Talks start at 2 p.m. and last approximately 15 minutes
- Audio Tours: $3
- Membership: The Active membership is $65 annually and includes unlimited free admission for two adults, invitations to exhibition previews and special events, and a 20% discount in the museum store.