project Norton Simon Museum

NORTON SIMON MUSEUM, L.A.'s most under-appreciated museum.

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is probably the most remarkable museum in Los Angeles you’ve never heard of. Its vast collection includes works of art so famous, you’ll likely recognize them from the pages of school textbooks. 

The two-story museum opened under its current name in 1975, with Norton Simon—billionaire industrialist and man behind Hunt-Wesson Foods, Max Factor cosmetics and Avis Car Rental—at its helm. Wealthy businessman really have done wonders for the Los Angeles art scene.

The museum is an easy fifteen minute walk from the Metro Gold Line’s Memorial Park Station. It's hard to imagine, as you cross a highway overpass and an Audi dealership, that some of the world’s finest pieces of art are not but a few hundred yards away.

But, sure enough, they are. The pathway leading to the museum is shaded by trees and lined with imposing bronze statues, all nude and brazenly immodest.

Inside you will find European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century, modern American art and a collection of Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years.

Among the most celebrated works are Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Boy, Giovanni di Paolo’s Branchini Madonna, Van Gogh’s Mulberry Tree, Dega’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and Picasso’s Woman with a Book.

The museum is smaller in scale than, say, the Getty Center, which makes it a bit more approachable. Art tends to blur together around hour three. With the Norton Simon, you can take your time and still get through everything in less than two hours. If you want to make a longer day of it, sit by the pond in the sculpture garden and enjoy a coffee from the cafe.

Also fun, make up your own captions for each painting.