Starting Sunday, Laguna Art Museum visitors will pay $5 less for tickets across the board.
The unveiling of the museum's spring 2012 exhibitions then will officially coincide with a revamped ticketing and hours of operation policy instituted by Malcolm Warner, who took over Jan. 3 as LAM's new executive director.
LAM will charge $7 for general admission, and instead of operating from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the museum will close to the public on Wednesdays. LAM will keep those same hours on weekend days as well as on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
But the museum also will stay open till 9 p.m. every Thursday — not just on the first Thursday of the month, when Laguna Beach's First Thursdays Art Walk happens.
The museum has already implemented another change under Warner: LAM now offers free admission between special exhibits, such as during the days leading up to the "Victor Hugo Zayas" and "The Postwar Era" shows, which will open Sunday and run through April 29.
The changes are part of the 58-year-old Englishman's plan to make the museum more accessible to the wider public and be engaged with the Laguna Beach's arts community and schools, while also trying to raise LAM's excellence and ambition in its exhibition programming.
"We're almost there," he said in an interview on Feb. 14. "I just would like to get to the point where we've raised our profile to the extent that people immediately ... think of us as the showcase for California art of any kind."
He started spreading his message while presiding over the museum's annual benefit art auction Feb. 4. Warner told a packed house at LAM that he wanted to take it from being known as "a museum of California art" to being known as "the museum of California art."
Three days later, he repeated that message to the City Council.
"We want to raise its national profile," Warner said at the council meeting. "I and the board [of trustees] are one in this but, at the same time, we're very keen not to do that at the expense of being responsive to Laguna Beach as a community.
"That's very important to us. We want to be accessible and open and friendly to everyone in the city."
During a getting-to-know you interview at his office a week later, Warner expanded on his stated goals and vision for LAM, and also revealed his intention to work toward thawing relations with the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in neighboring Newport Beach. These had iced over after a merger between LAM and the Newport Harbor Art Museum — now known as OCMA — collapsed in the mid-1990s.
"I've been making a point of trying to meet as many people who do have an interest in the museum as possible, and to listen to them because I think one of the things I should be doing over the first few months that I am here is just doing a lot of listening," said Warner, who wore a cardigan over an Oxford shirt unbuttoned at the collar.
Warner came to LAM after a decade at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, where he served most recently as deputy director and previously, for 18 months, as acting director. Yet after living and working in the United States for 23 years and being married to an American since 1988, he still hasn't lost his English accent. He continues to hold a green card but said he is thinking of becoming naturalized.
Warner was born in Aldershot, England. He did both his undergraduate and graduate studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where he did his doctoral dissertation on John Everett Millais, a 19th-century British painter who was a leader in the pre-Raphaelite artistic movement. According to his bio from Laguna Art Museum, Warner is an authority on Millais.
Stateside, before joining the Kimbell as a senior curator in 2001, Warner worked as the curator of European art at the San Diego Museum of Art, and as senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art at Yale University.
Since arriving in Laguna in early January, Warner has rented a place about a half-mile from the museum. His wife and two teenage children stayed on in Fort Worth but will join him at the end of the school year. His daughter is a high school senior, and Warner hopes to enroll his son at Laguna Beach High School.
In Laguna, Warner replaces Bolton Colburn, who resigned last spring as LAM's executive director after a 24-year career there. Colburn now heads the Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente.
Although Warner's schooling, training and expertise lie in classical British art, LAM Board President Robert Hayden III said his limited experience with California art wasn't seen as a discrepancy in hiring him.
According to Hayden, the museum was looking to recruit someone who could bring "a wider view" to the museum and put the museum on the national and international map, rather than someone who specialized only in California art.