LOS ANGELES, CA.- Art dealer and museum curator Walter Hopps, 72, died in Los Angeles. He organized the exhibition of Duchamps work at the Pasadena Art Museum, now known as the Norton Simon Museum in 1963.
Hopps began his engagement with contemporary art as a student in the late 1940s, and in 1957 he opened the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, along with the artist Edward Kienholz. Initially the gallery showcased the work of California artists, but in the early 60s expanded to include East Coast artists as well. Hopps showed work by the leading Abstract Expressionists, as well as by the emerging Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Hopps was named curator and then director of the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). During his tenure, milestone exhibitions included the first retrospective of the work of Marcel Duchamp; Frank Stella's first museum exhibition; and "The New Painting of Common Objects," a 1962 exhibition that signaled the rise of American Pop Art.
From 1967 to 1972, Hopps was director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Hopps also served as the United States Commissioner of two Biennales: the São Paulo Bienal in 1965 and the Venice Biennale in 1972. From 1972 to 1979 he was curator of 20th-Century American Art at the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the National Museum of American Art), a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, also in Washington. Among his most important exhibitions there was the mid-career retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg, mounted in honor of the American bicentennial in 1976.
Hopps joined The Menil Foundation in 1980 and became the Founding Director of the museum in 1987. In 1991, Hopps was the subject of a lengthy profile by Calvin Tomkins in The New Yorker magazine. Also in that year, he organized Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s, for The Menil Collection; the exhibition traveled to the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in 1992. In 1996, Hopps organized an Edward Kienholz retrospective for the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1997, Hopps organized an acclaimed full-career survey of Rauschenberg's work at the Guggenheim Museum. The exhibition traveled to several museums in the U.S. and Europe, including the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Earlier this year, the De Menil Foundation established the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, a $25,000 prize bestowed biennially by an international jury of museum curators and directors to a curator for outstanding work on exhibitions and publications.