Is It Any Good?

One of the best Museums in Los Angeles, based in Pasadena…

According to Wikipedia, Norton Simon (actual guy, with the middle name Winfred) was a millionaire industrialist and philanthropist based in California. A significant art collector, he is the namesake of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. This is good to know because for years, I thought Norton Simon was a partnership, in that they seemed to be two last names joined together.

The history of the Museum is intertwined with the Pacific Asia Museum, and stretches back to the late 1960s. The Museum’s site has the whole story, including a good bio on Norton Simon himself.

The Norton Simon itself is deceptively big. It’s almost TARDIS like, in that it seems bigger on the inside. It was built in 1969, and it looks like a big brick fortress on the far end of Colorado Avenue.

You walk in and…well, it only looks like a small museum at first, something you’re going to over and done with in an hour. But then, you go into the Galleries, and they go back and back and back. Every time you go into a Gallery thinking you’ve reached the far end of the Museum, there seems to be another Gallery just around the bend.  (It ends eventually)

In comparison to a place like LACMA, the Norton Simon doesn’t seem to present the width and breadth of everything that’s out there, and it certainly doesn’t have the volume, but what it does concentrate on, does rival LACMA. If you’ve been reading this space, you know I loves me two things in the world of Art: Dutch Masters and French Impressionists. Norton Simon has both in abundance.

After wandering the halls of the old world European Wing of the Museum, and getting lost in there for who knows how long, bear in mind there are three other areas to explore. There is a Modern European Wing to wander through, as well as a large open air Sculpture Garden, around a large Lilly pond (shades of Monet!).

But it is the second level of the Norton Simon where the Museum distinguishes itself.

The Second Level contains a beautiful collection of ancient South and Southeast Asian (primarily Indian) Art. The space on the second level is austere and…just perfect for gazing at these pieces. LACMA has a level with Indian Art, and the Pacific Asia Museum has a room dedicated to Indian Art. Norton Simon helps complete the local trifecta, and reminds me to work on my long promised guide to Asian Art in Los Angeles.

It doesn’t look like it, but the Norton Simon is a fantastic museum. It’s not LACMA, but it’s a damn good 1A.


IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: For people with cameras, you are free to wander the Museum with your camera and take pictures. You cannot, however, use a flash. Unless you have a camera like mine, with no built in flash and a ridiculously high ISO setting, you’re looking at some dark photos.

The exact wording on the Norton Simon website is this:

The Norton Simon Museum’s visitors are permitted, for private noncommercial use only, to take photographs in the Permanent Collection galleries and sculpture gardens. Videotaping is also allowed in these areas. Photography and videotaping in the building must use existing gallery light only (flash photography is prohibited). Tripods are not allowed on the premises. Works of art on loan from private collections or other institutions may not be photographed or videotaped. Photographs and videos may not be reproduced, published, distributed, transferred, sold or otherwise commercially exploited without the express written permission from the Office of Rights & Reproductions.

Reading that, I hope this post doesn’t get me in trouble with the Norton Simon.

Just as well, you should visit the Norton Simon Museum Store anyway, and avail yourself of some prints and ridiculously inexpensive posters. I got me a very nice Gaugin for $6, and a print of the Chestnut Pickers for $15.


PARKING: Tremendous. The Norton Simon Museum has it’s own massive lot, and it’s free of charge. Just pull in and park. Perfect. It fills up decently fast, especially on the weekends, but there are several levels to the lot. I have yet to come by and not find a space. I suppose you can park along Colorado if you have to, but I don’t think you’ll have to.


The Norton Simon Museum
411 West Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105-1825

Monday: 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday-Sunday:12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m.

The Museum Store, Cafe and Gardens close 15 minutes prior to the Museum closing.
Admission Fees:
Adults: $10.00
Seniors (ages 62 and above): $7.00
Children (ages 18 and under): Free
Students with valid I.D.: Free
Museum Members: Free
Active Military Personnel with valid I.D.: Free
Acoustiguide Audio Tour: $3.00 per unit/Free for Members

Admission is free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Unless otherwise stated, events are free with admission and no reservations are required. Click here for a list of local museums’ free day schedule.