Former Guggenheim deputy director now directs UC Irvine museum

UC Irvine recently announced plans to build the Langson Institute and Museum of California Art (IMCA) on its North Campus. We asked the museum’s first director, Kim Kanatani, what to expect.

Q. Describe the UCI art collection.

A. In 2017, the UCI created the IMCA after receiving two donations from major art collections. One by James Irvine Swinden of the Irvine family, featuring 1,300 works of California Impressionism and plein air art. And one from the Gerald Buck Estate, featuring 3,000 modern and contemporary works of art by California-based artists.

Q. What is your goal for the museum?

A. To be the epicenter of California art. That is, works made about California, by artists who create radical forms about their experiences of working and living here. California has the fifth largest economy in the world and its art is as global in reach as the state itself.

Q. Where can this art be seen?

A. We have a tentative location on Von Karman Avenue, about a mile from campus, where people can get a taste of our future museum. Our next exhibition opens in June.

Q. How did the UCI come to build the new museum?

A. In the 1960s, architect William Pereira, who designed the master plan for UCI and the city of Irvine, envisioned an art museum for the campus. Significant art donations prompted Chancellor Howard Gillman to anoint this project and build a new gateway to UCI on North Campus.

Q. Where will the museum be built?

A. The university has chosen a location along Campus Drive, east of Jamboree Road, which is part of our North Campus. We expect construction to begin by 2025.

Q. Why did you choose to leave the Guggenheim Museum in New York to take up this position?

A. I am originally from Southern California. I attended UCLA and my husband graduated from UCI, so accepting this job was a homecoming for us.

Q. What do you do when you are not working?

A. I take full advantage of everything Irvine has to offer, from biking and hiking to running trails and the beautiful lap pools dotted around the University Hills where I live.

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