January is slow for major events coming through town. But that fact provides plenty of opportunities to explore the often overlooked gems that surround us all year round.

Pasadena is blessed with a wide array of museums that appeal to all tastes, and some of the top ones are featuring long-standing exhibits this weekend — making this a particularly great time to pay a visit.



The Huntington permanently features 650 classic paintings and 440 sculptures, but presently has three additional exhibits. The Orbit Pavilion, located on its Celebration Lawn, is the brainchild of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory visual strategists Dan Goods and David Delgado, who conceived an innovative “soundscape” representing the movement of the International Space Station and 19 Earth satellites.

“Visual Voyages,” located in the Boone Gallery, is part of the Getty Museum’s “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA Initiative” and offers an extensive survey of the connections among art, science and the environment in Latin America, from the voyages of Columbus to the publications of Charles Darwin in the mid-19th century. Finally, “Sonic Botany” — located in the Virginia Steel Scott Galleries of American Art — offers a mix of audio and visuals offering graphic representations of musical scores inspired by the Huntington’s exhibition, “Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin.”


The Norton Simon Museum hosts Pasadena’s broadest collection of classic art and presently has two blockbuster exhibits on display. “Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor” explores the compulsive nature of Edgar Degas’s artistic practice. Focusing on the Museum’s collection of modèles, the first and only set of bronzes cast from the artist’s original wax and clay statuettes, “Taking Shape,” considers the affinities among sculpting, painting and drawing in Degas’s oeuvre.

By presenting the modèle bronzes alongside related compositions from the Norton Simon’s renowned collection, this expansive body of Degas’ works celebrates the artist’s boundless enthusiasm for creation, and the act of making as an end in itself. Meanwhile, “Rembrandt: Prints of ‘a Particular Spirit’” features 21 prints from the museum’s expansive collection of Rembrandt etchings, organized to celebrate the installation of Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait at the Age of 34,” on loan this season from The National Gallery, London.


The PMCA has been enthralling and enlightening visitors for months now with three exhibits that are set to close after this weekend. And families should take special note of the museum this week because the museum’s First Friday promotion offers free admission.

“Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting US Films” brings together innovative Cuban posters promoting American films, made from 1960 to 2009. The approximately 40 posters featured in the exhibition — which promoted such films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Cabaret,” and “Silence of the Lambs,” as well as a few select Cuban films, such as a documentary about Marilyn Monroe — are astonishing in their composition, stylistic diversity, and craft. 

Meanwhile, the exhibit “E. Charlton Fortune: The Colorful Spirit” features the career of one of California’s most trailblazing artists. Fortune worked both as a painter and in creating liturgical art for the Catholic Church, and “Spirit” pairs the artist’s impressionist and modernist landscapes with her ecclesiastical paintings, sculptures, furnishings, and other designs produced for the Catholic Church.

Finally, the “LA Redux: Reduction Linocuts by Dave Lefner” exhibit spotlights the 25-year career of artist Dave Lefner as he explored and recorded the historic and vintage characteristics of Los Angeles. The 10 prints on display particularly focus on mid-century American automobiles, roadside signage and dilapidated neon theater marquees.


The PMH has been commemorating the greatest moments of the Crown City for decades, having started as an offshoot of the Pasadena Historical Society. Its current main exhibit, “Royals of Pasadena: Rose Queen and Royal Court,” runs through Feb. 18 and celebrates the rich history the young women who have represented the Tournament of Roses throughout the past century.

This unique exhibition explores the traditions and history of the Royal Court, from the selection process to the coronation and Rose Parade. The displays include an exquisite collection of coronation gowns, as well as daywear, accessories, and jewelry from the Court wardrobes. Vivid photos and ephemera documenting this century-long Pasadena tradition enhance the exhibit, including original design drawings of the Queen’s Float. A special highlight is Queen crowns from the past century, on loan from the Tournament of Roses.


The USC Pacific Asia Museum is one of few US institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum, located at 46 N. Los Robles Ave., in Pasadena but serving the Greater Southern California region, carries out its mission to further intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Opening last month after a lengthy seismic retrofit, the museum features the exhibition “Winds from Fusang: Mexico and China in the Twentieth Century” through June 10.

Curated by Museum Director Christina Yu Yu and independent scholar Shengtian Zheng, “Winds from Fusang” is part of the Getty Center’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA art project.

“This exhibition … is the result of more than 10 years of research,” Zheng recently told Pasadena Weekly reporter Jana J. Monji. As Zheng explained, “Fusang” refers to a mysterious legendary land located 1,000 miles east of China, and “many scholars believe that it is America, especially Mexico,” Zheng said. n

The Pasadena Museum of History is located at 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena. Call (626) 577-1660 or visit pasadenahistory.org.

The Pasadena Museum of California Art is located at 490 E. Union St., Pasadena. Call (626) 568-3665 or visit pmcaonline.org.

The Norton Simon Museum is located at 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-6840 or visit nortonsimon.org.

Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens is located at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino. Call (626)405-2100 or visit huntington.org.