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Orange County Has A New Art Museum, And It's Free

A wide outdoor staircase is in the foreground with the curved, silver-colored sloping roof of a building in the background. The sky is a clear bright blue behind the building.
The upper plaza of the Orange County Museum of Art will host large sculptures and live events such as poetry readings and concerts.
(Jill Replogle
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The Orange County Museum of Art is celebrating 60 years by opening its brand new building to the public.

The museum's new home has been in the works for more than a decade and will replace its old home in Newport Beach. (The museum has been operating out of a temporary space near its new building since late 2018.)

The museum — open to the public on Oct. 8 — is 53,000 square feet. Just off the 405 freeway in Costa Mesa, the new location is on the campus of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in South Coast Plaza.

The building is vastly different from its boxy predecessor, a mix of curves and sharp angles. Inside, the varying height of the roof and gallery floors give an ever-changing sense of space.

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A sculpture of a mythical animal with three legs and a dolphin or whale tale stands in the middle of a gallery. A bright yellow painting is on the back wall.
The California Biennial 2022 exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art.
(Jill Replogle

Upstairs, there's a bar and plaza that can host film screenings, poetry readings and concerts.

"I love the idea that you can come to the museum and have a totally outdoor experience," said Heidi Zuckerman, the museum's CEO and director.

The facility was designed by the Morphosis firm under the direction of Pritzker-Prize winning architect Thom Mayne and Brandon Welling.

Free For 10 Years

That, plus the fact that general admission is free for the next 10 years, fits her goal of making art accessible to everyone.

"I think there's the opportunity for people to come together and interact here in a way that they literally can't anywhere else, or wouldn't, because it is free," she said.

Admission costs are waived due to a $2.5 million gift to the museum from Lugano Diamonds, a jewelry retailer based in Newport Beach.

Art For Everyone

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(Shown in video: Supernova, 2000, Lee Bul)

At the entrance to the indoor galleries, there's a sign that suggests visitors first relax, then ask themselves some questions when looking at the modern and contemporary art pieces on display …

  • What am I observing?
  • Is there anything that seems familiar or reminds me of myself?
  • Do I care?

"I know that a lot of people think that contemporary art in particular can be weird or scary, and so my goal is to make people kind of have a shoulder-lowering effect around art," Zuckerman said.

There's no "it" to "get" with art, she said. It's whatever you bring to it.

How To Visit

The Orange County Museum of Art will open its doors to the public on Oct. 8 at 5 p.m. for a 24-hour grand opening party, including a drumline procession, exhibition tours, rooftop dance party, late-night films and sunrise yoga.

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

For more information and the full schedule of opening events, visit

Join AirTalk For An Event At The Museum

AirTalk host Larry Mantle and a lineup of special guests will discuss Orange County’s arts scene and the convergence of different cultures that influence it, from fine art to film to music and live theater.

The event is Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for preferred seating or you can attend for free, or for the amount that you choose, for general admission.

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Updated October 13, 2022 at 10:14 AM PDT
This story was updated to include details on an upcoming AirTalk event at the museum.