Exploring art and culture from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas; enhancing understanding of the diverse peoples, cultures and religions of the world.
For more than half a century, the museum that’s now the Fowler Museum at UCLA has made the arts and cultural wonders of the non-Western world and the indigenous Americas accessible to scholars and the public. Renowned for pioneering exhibitions and scholarly publications, engaging public programs and educational outreach, the Fowler holds a research collection of works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas — past and present — that exceeds 125,000 objects of art and material culture and 600,000 archaeological items.
“The Fowler Museum is one of the most unique and important cultural institutions in Los Angeles,” says Michael Govan, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “It offers a truly global view of artistic and cultural traditions, serving a critically important role in this diverse metropolis.”
The museum’s beginnings date back to the 1930s, when UCLA archaeology scholars were already excavating and collecting. But it was in the early 1960s that then-Chancellor Franklin Murphy gleaned 3,000 pieces of cultural material from across campus and placed them in a repository he called the Laboratory of Ethnic Art and Technology. Over the years, the collection and its prominence grew, due in part to gifts and support from private donors. By 1990, the Fowler’s stature placed it firmly alongside such world-class institutions as the LACMA and the Getty Center.
“The Fowler is an unmatched treasure,” says Christopher Waterman, dean of UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture. “The museum fosters understanding across cultures, which is so critical in our increasingly global world.”
Current director Marla Berns ‘73, M.A. ‘76, Ph.D. ‘86 was appointed in 2001. Berns, who came to UCLA from the university museum at UC Santa Barbara is a specialist in African art. Berns made her mark right away. She created a long-term exhibition of prime works, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives and eliminated admission charges. She also expanded the Museum’s mission to include a strong focus on contemporary artistic production from the regions of the world the Fowler has long represented, demonstrating how artistic creativity is flourishing in the postcolonial, transnational contexts in which artists find themselves today.
“Our goal,” Berns says, “is to provide unparalleled ways to experience little-known global arts and artists and learn about them in an environment that is at once educational and inspirational.”
Franklin Murphy would be pleased.
Fowler Museum building exterior. Photo by Don Cole, 2015
Arts of India Festival performance. Photo by Reed Hutchinson, 2015
Permanent exhibition Intersections: World Arts/Local Lives.
Photo by Rajat Ghosh, 2012
Exhibition Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth. Photo by Reed Hutchinson, 2009
Summer Concert on the Green performance. Photo by Don Cole, 2010
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