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Arts Buzz

The Irvine Museum is a hot ticket

Calling all collectors of California art: James Irvine Swinden, president of the Irvine Museum, invites you to consider bequeathing your collection to UC Irvine, where a planned new museum – to be built within 15 years – will be among “the greatest museums of California art in the world,” he says. The Irvine Museum has agreed to donate its entire collection to UC Irvine.

The estimated cost of the new museum: $50 million to $100 million. Swinden promises art will not be “stashed in some basement” but will be rotated to keep them before the public eye.

Swinden’s mother, Joan Irvine Smith, is “greatly pleased” about the UC Irvine project, says Swinden, who lives in Laguna Beach. It was Joan Irvine Smith and her mother, Athalie Clarke, who founded the Irvine Museum by donating their private collections. 

Guests at Smith’s annual Oaks Classic horse jumping competition in San Juan Capistrano got their first peek at the budding museum in 1992, the year of its founding, when they stepped inside a tent to view Smith’s collection of works by California impressionists. She fell in love with plein air art when she was 12, she said at the time. “My stepfather, Thurmond Clarke, used to take me to the California Club in Los Angeles, where they had it all over the walls.” 

Emphasizes Swinden: “The museum at UC Irvine will not only feature plein air art, but all California art.” 

The Irvine Museum is showcasing a collection titled “Along El Camino Real” through May 18, featuring many of California’s 21 missions, including what the artists called “the jewel of the missions” – Mission  San Juan Capistrano. On display are  works of art by such noted California painters as Alson S. Clark, Alice Coutts, Edwin Deakin, William Lees Judson, Elmer Wachtel and William Wendt. 

The exhibit provides a unique opportunity for Orange County schoolchildren to learn about California history, notes the Irvine Museum’s executive director, Jean Stern. “We have elementary school field trips regularly at the museum during the school year.”

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