Los Angeles art institutions received a lot of attention in 2005 — much of it focused on the negative goings-on at the Getty and LACMA. Fortunately, L.A. has the shining UCLA Hammer Museum, which in the past year became a model for what a smaller museum should be: one that is very much contemporary and combines the local art community with a strong national program. Here are four crucial things the Hammer got right in 2005:

“THING: New Sculpture From Los Angeles” was the best museum exhibition in L.A. (arguably the U.S.) last year. This ambitious and focused show just won the National Award for Best National Thematic Exhibition, and co-curators James Elaine, Aimee Chang and Christopher Miles will receive the International Association of Art Critics Award in February.

The hiring of Gary Garrels In May, the former chief curator of the Department of Drawings and curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, became senior curator at the Hammer and will be focused on building the permanent collection. New York’s loss is Los Angeles’ gain.

Free Summer Amid a lot of talk about the rising admission costs for museums, the Hammer went the other way by offering free admission to its summer exhibitions. “The Biographical Landscape: The Photography of Stephen Shore,” Patty Chang’s “Shangri-La” and Fiona Tan’s “Correction” were on view, and the Hammer also hosted film nights showing such treasures as The Abominable Snowman.

Lecture programming Critics’ lectures by Jerry Saltz and Robert Storr, artist lectures by Matthew Barney and David Byrne, engaging gallery talks with exhibiting artists and curators, and conversations pairings such as Lisa Cholodenko and Lisa Yuskavage proved that good supplemental programming is key to having a well-rounded institution.

Caryn Coleman co-runs Sixspace Gallery and artbloggingla.com.

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