Fowler Museum at UCLA

The Fowler Museum at UCLA, commonly known as The Fowler, and formerly Museum of Cultural History and Fowler Museum of Cultural History, is a museum on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) which explores art and material culture primarily from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas, past and present.

Fowler Museum at UCLA
Location of The Fowler in Los Angeles
Location308 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90024
United States
Coordinates34.0728°N 118.4431°W / 34.0728; -118.4431
TypeArt museum, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
DirectorMarla C. Berns [1]

The Fowler is generally home to three to six art exhibitions and also acts as a venue for lectures on cultural topics, musical performances, art workshops, family programs, festivals and more. The Fowler is located in the northern part of UCLA's Westwood Campus, adjacent to Royce Hall and Glorya Kaufman Hall.

The museum is operated under the jurisdiction of UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture (UCLA Arts).


Fowler Museum Plan by Savrann
Fowler Museum under Construction

The museum was established in 1963 by then UCLA Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy as the Museum and Laboratories of Ethnic Arts and Technology.[2] Its first home was in the basement of Haines Hall on the UCLA campus. The goal of this new museum was to consolidate the various collections of non-Western art and artifacts on campus. In addition to active collecting, the museum initiated research projects, fieldwork, exhibitions and publications.

In 1971, the name was changed to the Museum of Cultural History and by 1975, its collections, in numbers and in quality, ranked it among the top four university museums in the country, a stature it retains to the present day.[3]

In 1981, UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, along with museum director, Christopher B. Donnan, developed a vision for a new building that would fully exhibit the immense collection. The $22-million structure, designed by architects Arnold C. Savrann and John Carl Warnecke, was funded by both private gifts and state resources.[4] The large facility called the Fowler Museum of Cultural History opened on September 30, 1992,[5] named in recognition of lead support by the Fowler Foundation and the family of collector and inventor Francis E. Fowler Jr., former owner of Southern Comfort.[6][7] In 1996, Doran H. Ross became the director of the Fowler.[8] In 2006, the name of the museum was formally changed to the Fowler Museum at UCLA.[2]

Fowler at Fifty

In the fall of 2013, the museum launched its fiftieth anniversary celebration with a night of festivities and the opening of eight special exhibitions from its global collections. The eight exhibitions, which ran through winter and spring of 2014, were:

  • From the Sepik River to Los Angeles: Art in Migration
  • Double Fortune, Double Trouble: Art for Twins among the Yorùbá
  • Powerful Bodies: Zulu Arts of Personal Adornment
  • Māori Cloaks, Māori Voices
  • The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: Ancient Threads/New Directions
  • New World Wunderkammer: A Project by Amalia Mesa-Bains
  • Chupícuaro: The Natalie Wood Gift of Ancient Mexican Ceramics
  • From X to Why: A Museum Takes Shape

In addition to these exhibitions, the Fowler also exhibited new and promised gifts of art inside the rotating Fowler in Focus gallery, and presented Walk among Worlds, an installation by artist Máximo González, composed of thousands of beach ball globes.


The Fowler's collections comprise more than 120,000 art and ethnographic and 600,000 archaeological objects representing ancient, traditional, and contemporary cultures of Africa, Native and Latin America, and Asia and the Pacific. From Yoruba beaded arts of Southern Nigeria, to pre-Columbian ceramic vessels of Peru, to elaborate batik textiles of Indonesia and the vibrant papier-mâché sculptures of Mexico, the Fowler's collections offer a comprehensive resource for exhibitions and scholarship central to the museum's mandate. [9]

The majority of the Fowler's holdings have been acquired via the generosity of individuals — researchers, scholars, and dedicated collectors — who have enabled the Fowler to build its world-class collections. The Sir Henry Wellcome Collection of 30,000 objects,[10][11] assembled early in the 20th century by Sir Henry Wellcome and given to the museum in 1965, forms the core of its African and Pacific holdings and represents the single largest gift. More than 15,000 textiles trace the history of cloth over two millennia and across five continents.[12]

Objects from the Fowler Family Silver Collection include 400 works representing 16th- through 19th-century Europe and the United States. Among these are vessels from the renowned workshops of Paul de Lamerie, Karl Fabergé, and Paul Revere. In 1969, Hollywood actress Natalie Wood donated a remarkable collection of ancient Chupícuaro Mexican ceramics to the Fowler Museum.[13] In 2013, the Fowler Museum received several gifts in honor of its fiftieth anniversity. One gift was estimated to be worth around $14 million, from collector and Silicon Valley pioneer Jay Last and his wife, Deborah. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the gift consisted of 92 wood and ivory objects from the Lega people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.[14]

Most of the holdings have been collected in the field and systematically documented, providing essential contextual information. Maintaining geographical scope and artistic variety and building on existing strengths continue to be guiding principles in acquisitions decisions. For example, as the museum augments its programming to meet the interests of the city's growing Latin American population, collection activities in this area have increased. An exceptional collection of more than 900 Mexican works was donated in 1997 by the Daniel Family and includes magnificent ceramic Trees of Life, Day of the Dead figurines, and masks from Metepec, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Jalisco, Puebla, and Guanajuato.[15]

Public programs

Offered throughout the year, the Fowler's public programs are designed to reflect and complement its dynamic exhibition program, as well as highlight the museum's world-renowned collection of art from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. Public programs at the Fowler Museum are typically free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Conversations and lectures

Current and ongoing exhibitions provide the starting point for programming that touches upon scholarly as well as general interest topics. The signature series, Fowler OutSpoken, features speakers in a lecture, conversation, or panel format, and provides audiences with access to emerging and established artists, curators, scholars, performers, and other cultural figures.

Concert and performances

The Fowler offers educational and entertaining events throughout the year showcasing world music and performances by local and international artists. Fowler Out Loud is the museum's performance series that takes place on Thursday nights throughout the academic school year and features international music, dance, poetry, theater, and performance art by UCLA students.

Events and tours

From artist walkthroughs to monthly Culture Fix gallery chats, the Fowler offers numerous opportunities to engage with its exhibitions. In-depth study programs and the museum's signature Fowler on the Town series feature site visits to places of interest in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

Film screenings and workshops

The Fowler presents film screenings throughout the year. The Fowler offers documentaries and features that relate to current exhibitions. Cooking programs, hands-on demonstrations, and dance and yoga are offered on occasion.


The primary mission of the Fowler's Education Department is to strengthen global arts and humanities education by helping to increase understanding of our world's cultural and artistic traditions.

School Visit Program

The Fowler Museum invites K-12 students to experience global arts during self-guided and guided tours. This program serves students of all ages and abilities.

Professional Development Opportunities

The Fowler Museum also presents diverse professional development offerings and resources for teachers, including curricular materials, professional development workshops, and intensive Teacher Institutes.

University Programs

A dynamic center for research and dialogue, the Fowler Museum serves as a cultural gateway linking UCLA to the world beyond. The Fowler Museum's university programs offer many opportunities for UCLA faculty, staff, and students to engage with global arts. Such programs range from student internships, to interdisciplinary class visits, to student-led performances.

Family Programs

Family programs at the Fowler Museum are designed to encourage families of all types to slow down, look closely at original works of art, and work together to engage with global arts.


  • Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives[16]
  • Reflecting Culture: The Francis E. Fowler, Jr. Collection of Silver
  • Plus several changing exhibitions
  • Continental Rifts: Contemporary Time-based Works of Africa, 2009

Selected collection highlights


Marla C. Berns has served as the director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA since 2001.[17] Previously, Doran H. Ross, who succeeded Christopher B. Donnan (1981-1996), served as the museum director from 1996 to 2001.[18] One of the most significant initiatives that Berns has launched as director came to fruition in 2006 with the opening of Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, the museum's first long-term exhibition of highlights from its renowned permanent collection. The exhibition features a unique thematic and cross-cultural approach and incorporates a wide range of technologies, and has become a staple for K-12 and college-level multicultural education in the Los Angeles area, as well as a favorite stop for general museum visitors interested in world arts.

In addition to continuing the Fowler's pioneering work in the presentation of global arts and cultures, Berns has encouraged the presentation of the work of contemporary artists in exhibitions that speak to both the ongoing dynamism of world cultures and to the resonances between contemporary art and traditional practices. To that end, the Fowler has presented several much-praised solo exhibitions, including the work of the celebrated Ghanaian artist El Anatsui (2007), Cuban-born artist José Bedia (2011), San Francisco-based performance and photo-conceptual artist Allan deSouza (2011), and the riotous Soundsuits of Nick Cave (2010), one of the Fowler's most popular exhibitions to date.

In 2007, Berns' position was endowed by a $1 million donation from Los Angeles philanthropists Shirley and Ralph Shapiro in recognition of her outstanding contributions to UCLA and the community.[19][20] In 2013, Berns received the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic in a ceremony conducted by Stéphane Martin, president of the Quai Branly Museum. The ceremony took place at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris on Tues., Nov 12, at the opening of Secrets d'ivoire: L'art des Lega d'Afrique centrale, an exhibition of the Fowler Museum's unparalleled collection of African artwork by the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was donated to the Fowler by collectors Jay T. and Deborah R. Last.[1]


  1. Abarbanel, Stacey (March 27, 2007). "Press Release: Fowler Museum Received $1 Million Endowment for Director's Position" (Press release). Los Angeles.
  2. Muchnic, Suzanne (August 27, 2006). "ARTS NOTES Meaning lost, name changes". Los Angeles Times.
  3. Dundjerski, Marina (2011). UCLA : The First Century (Third ed.). Los Angeles: UCLA Alumni, UCLA History Project. p. 153. ISBN 9781906507374.
  4. UCLA Alumni. "Sept. 30, 1992 Gallery of World Arts Unveiled". UCLA History. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Alumni. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. Muchnic, Suzanne (September 27, 1992). "Go (Anywhere But) West : UCLA's Fowler Museum of Cultural History, dedicated to non-Western traditions, opens 29 years after being conceived". Los Angeles Times.
  6. Poundstone, William (October 28, 2013). "Francis Fowler's Museum at UCLA". Blouin Art Info.
  7. "When the World Came to Westwood: The Fowler Museum at 50". UCLA Magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  8. Berns, Marla (October 23, 2020). "In memoriam: Doran Ross, 73, Fowler Museum's former director and Ghanaian art scholar". UCLA. Retrieved July 13, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. Muchnic, Suzanne (September 28, 2013). "UCLA's Fowler Museum turns 50 in worldly fashion". Los Angeles Times.
  10. Hasinoff, Erin L. (November 2011). "An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World. Frances Larson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009". Museum Anthropology Review. Bloomington, IN: Mathers Museum of World Cultures.
  11. Poundstone, William (November 11, 2013). "How the Fowler Got a Bamileke Masterpiece". Blouin Art Info.
  12. Muchnic, Suzanne (February 11, 2009). "L.A. museums' collections grow despite poor economy". Los Angeles Times.
  13. Green, Natalie (January 9, 2014). "Q&A: Victoria Lyall discusses Chupícuaro pottery, upcoming Fowler lecture". Daily Bruin. Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  14. Ng, David. "Fowler Museum at UCLA receives art gift estimated at $14 million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  15. Cosentino, Delia A.; Mulryan, Lenore Hoag (2003). Ceramic Trees of Life:Popular Art from Mexico. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. p. 8. ISBN 9780930741969.
  16. Zinoman, Jason (Oct 1, 2006). "The Week Ahead: Oct. 1 - Oct. 7 - New York Times". New York Times.
  17. Hood, Amy (October 10, 2001). "Marla C. Berns Named New Director of the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History". UCLA Newsroom.
  18. Choi, Linda (February 11, 1999). "Fowler Museum exhibit wrapped in African pride". Daily Bruin. UCLA. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  19. Luther, Claudia (Jun 1, 2014). "Bringing World Cultures to Campus". UCLA Magazine.
  20. Abarbanel, Stacey (March 28, 2007). "UCLA's Fowler Museum Receives $1 Million Endowment for Director's Position". UCLA Newsroom.

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