The Orange County Museum of Art is the premier visual arts organization in Orange County, California. Critically acclaimed exhibitions such as Birth of the Cool: Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury, Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone, Picasso to Pollock: Modern Masterpieces from the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, and Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, draw more than 30,000 visitors annually. More than 15,000 children and adults participate in award-winning education programs. The museum's collection comprises over 3,000 objects of modern and contemporary art, with a concentration on the art of California from the early 20th century to works by local, national, and international artists working today.

Mission: The Orange County Museum of Art enriches the lives of a diverse and changing community through modern and contemporary art.

The museum opened in 1962 as the Balboa Pavilion Gallery by thirteen visionary women. With a focus on modern and contemporary art, their efforts were well received and the museum enjoyed recognition from coast to coast. By 1968 the institution became known as the Newport Harbor Art Museum and in 1972, moved to a nearby, larger location. Interest and support continued to grow, as did its collections and exhibitions and in 1977, the museum opened its doors on San Clemente Drive. In 1997 the museum was remodeled and renamed the Orange County Museum of Art and to this day, enjoys world-wide recognition for its award-winning education programs and ground-breaking exhibitions, many of which travel nationally and internationally. In October 2018, OCMA moved to Santa Ana, where the museum is in residence at the South Coast Plaza Village during construction of the Thom Mayne designed building that will open in 2021.


The museum is especially noted for organizing important exhibitions of contemporary art that are locally relevant and internationally significant, including the first surveys of Vija Celmins (1980), Chris Burden (1988), and Tony Cragg (1990), as well as early exhibitions of seminal work by Lari Pittman (1983), Gunther Forg (1989), Charles Ray (1990), Guillermo Kuitca (1992), Bill Viola (1997), Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (2003), and Catherine Opie (2006). Thematic exhibitions of contemporary art have ranged from Objectives: The New Sculpture (1990) which presented the work of Grenville Davey, Katharina Fritsch, Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Annette Lemieux, Juan Muñoz, Julian Opie, and Haim Steinbach; Girls' Night Out (2003), which presented work by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Elina Brotherus, Dorit Cypis, Rineke Dijkstra, Katy Grannan, Sarah Jones, Kelly Nipper, Daniela Rossell, Shirana Shahbazi, and Salla Tykka; and State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970, presenting an in-depth study of California artists in the 1960s and 1970s who re-defined contemporary art.

In addition to its significant contributions to the field of contemporary art, the museum has also organized and hosted important exhibitions of modern art and design such as Edvard Munch: Expressionist Paintings, 1900-1940 (1983), The Interpretive Link: Abstract Surrealism into Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper, 1938-1948 (1986), The Figurative Fifties: New York Figurative Expressionism (1988), American Modern, 1925-1940: Design for a New Age (2001), Picasso to Pollock: Modern Masterpieces from the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2004), Villa America: American Moderns 1900–1950 (2005), Birth of the Cool: Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury (2007), and Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce (2009). 

In 1984, the museum launched the California Biennial, one of the most important regional surveys in the world devoted to new art. In 2013, that program evolved into the California-Pacific Triennial, the first on-going exhibition in the Western Hemisphere devoted to contemporary art from around the Pacific Rim. 

Since 2004, the museum's exhibitions have traveled to more than 30 museums throughout the United States and in Europe. These projects include Kutlug Ataman: Paradise (2007); Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone (2007); Peter Saul (2008); Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (2012); Jack Goldstein x 10,000 (2012); and Richard Jackson: Ain't Painting a Pain (2013). 


The Orange County Museum of Art's collection forms the cornerstone of the museum and is a significant cultural resource for the community. Comprising over 3,000 works of art, the collection's focus is on modern and contemporary art and includes painting, sculpture, photography, drawing, printmaking, video, digital, and installation art produced during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The museum's major holdings are California-based, highlighting such movements as early and mid-century modernism, Bay Area Figuration, assemblage, California Light and Space, Pop Art, Minimalism, and installation art. Prominently featured are works by John Baldessari, Elmer Bischoff, Jessica Bronson, Chris Burden, Vija Celmins, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Irwin, Helen Lundeberg, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, John McCracken, John McLaughlin, Catherine Opie, Alan Rath, Charles Ray, Ed Ruscha, and Bill Viola.

The museum's international holdings are a growing area of the collection, featuring works of art that provide a meaningful context with which to experience the art of our times. Key examples include work by Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Lee Bul, Katy Grannan, Joseph Grigely, Glenn Ligon, Christian Marclay, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Marjetica Potrc, David Reed, Daniela Rossell, and Lorna Simpson. Guided by its mission, the Orange County Museum of Art's collection strives to link the historical and the contemporary; bridge local and global art and culture; and enlighten, inspire, and engage visitors.