For those with a love of the Arts, Orange County has some of the best museums in Southern California. Whether your interests lie in sculpture, traditional paintings, photography or newer media, you’ll find it all in our ultimate list of the best Orange County Ca. art museums. Be sure to check out those with exclusive California-based collections!
Laguna Art Museum
If you are looking for a museum that exclusively features California art, look no further that the Laguna Art Museum on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. As the oldest cultural institution in the area, the museum is situated in a scenic spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The museum features a dynamic collection of artwork created by California artists, and includes artwork that characterizes the state itself. From historical to contemporary styles, the Laguna Art Museum features a collection that showcases all periods and styles.
The Irvine Museum
Located in Irvine, The Irvine Museum focuses on the natural landscape and is dedicated to the study of California Impressionism paintings. Many of the paintings in this collection reveal a still-undeveloped Orange County, from between 1890-1930. The museum collection was donated to UC Irvine and will eventually find a home on the UCI campus. Currently on display is the exhibition Upon a Painted Ocean: An Ode to the California Coast.
Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University
Located in Orange, the museum opened in 2016 and focuses on the California Scene Painting movement. The Hilbert Collection includes oils, watercolors, sketches and lithographs and a diverse array of scenes from the 20th Century. Additionally, the Museum features a Disney Production Art gallery as well as exhibitions of other American illustrations.
Orange County Museum of Contemporary Art
Featuring a collection of more than 3,500 objects, the Orange County Museum of Contemporary Art is in Santa Ana. The museum focuses on the art of the Pacific Rim and California, with a concentration on early 20th century to present. Exhibits are diverse and offered in a wide range of media, including sculpture, traditional paintings, photography, video, digital and installation art. Current exhibits include:
- Kathryn Garcia: gone, gone way beyond
- Valentina Jager: the face the mouth the back
- Mariángeles Soto-Díaz: Everyday Grappling Operations
- Rodrigo Valenzuela: American-Type
- Forsaken Utopias: Photographs from the OCMA Permanent Collection
- Alan Nakagawa: Rescue(s)
- Ni Youyu: Dust Paintings
Bowers Museum of Cultural Arts
Located in Santa Ana, the Bowers Museum of Cultural Arts specializes in the art of the world's indigenous peoples. With a permanent collection that includes more than 100,000 objects and special exhibitions from institutions throughout the world, Bowers is a must-visit destination. In addition to the main museum there is a secondary campus called the Kidseum. This children’s museum focuses on art and archaeology. Like its adult counterpart, the Kidseum also hosts travelling exhibitions. Currently on display is Kings, Queens and Castles, an exhibit meant to provide children with an introduction to chess by bringing the game to life.
Fullerton Museum Center
The Fullerton Museum Center offers exhibits in multiple disciplines, as well as educational programs in the areas of history, science, art and humanities. The center has an ever-changing list of exhibits for both young and old alike. Children may enjoy Dr. Entomo's Palace of Exotic Wonders which explores “the truth, myths and mysteries surrounding some of nature's most curious creatures”. Dr. Entomo is currently on display, as is the Leo Fender: Life and Legacy exhibit. The Fullerton Museum Center is located in Fullerton.
Grand Central Art Center at Cal State University
Also located in Fullerton, the Grand Central Art Center is a unit of Cal State University College of the Arts. The Center is dedicated to contemporary art and visual culture. Exhibition areas include the Grand Central Art Gallery, Project Room, Video Gallery, Education Gallery & Project Wall.
Huntington Beach Art Center
The Huntington Beach Art Center in Huntington Beach opened its doors in 1995. It’s a true community arts and cultural center, presenting works of artists in a wide array of medias. Exhibits, performances, film screenings, lectures and education programming are all utilized in the center’s mission to bring public awareness and understanding to a wide range of perspectives.