The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, known colloquially as the Benton, is an art museum at Pomona College in Claremont, California. It was completed in 2020, replacing the Montgomery Art Gallery, which had been home to the Pomona College Museum of Art (PCMA) since 1958. It houses a collection of approximately 15,000 works, including Italian Renaissance panel paintings, indigenous American art and artifacts, and American and European prints, drawings, and photographs. The museum is free to the public.
Pomona College established a separate School of Art and Design in 1892, and incorporated it into the college c. 1913. In 1958, responding to increased postwar interest in the arts, the Gladys K. Montgomery Art Center was completed adjacent to the art department in Rembrandt Hall, enabling the college to present its permanent collection in one place for the first time. A $280,000 expansion completed in 1968 added a second story and nearly doubled its size.: 570
The gallery experienced a brief golden age from 1969 to 1973, during which director Mowry Baden (class of 1958) and curators Hal Glicksman and Helene Winer staged a number of groundbreaking post-minimalist and conceptual exhibitions, including work by James Turrell (class of 1965), Judy Fiskin (class of 1966), Chris Burden (class of 1969), and Peter Shelton (class of 1973), all of whom would later achieve fame. Resistance from the more socially conservative administration, including to a controversial March 1972 performance by Wolfgang Stoerchle in which he urinated on a rug, led to a mass exodus of the art faculty in 1973. Art historian Thomas E. Crow later wrote that the works created and presented at the college during this period were arguably “as salient to art history as any being made and shown anywhere else in the world at that time.”
In 1977, a new 2,500-square-foot (230 m2) gallery was added, doubling the available exhibition space. In 2001, the gallery acquired museum status. A more minor renovation was completed in 2006, adding a new entrance.
In 2020, the museum moved to a new building, the Benton, constructed diagonally adjacent to the old Montgomery Gallery. The new facility, named after donor and trustee Janet Inskeep Benton (class of 1979), more than tripled the exhibition and storage space available to the museum. It overcame local opposition from Claremont residents who objected to the moving of a historic house to create space on the lot. It reopened to the public on May 25, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic.