Walter Hopps, Founding Director of The Menil Collection, is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking exhibitions, which demonstrate his gift for inspired installation. Hopps began his professional engagement with artists in Los Angeles while still in his teens. Unafraid to take a fresh and independent look at the art historical canon, Hopps later produced a number of legendary exhibitions while Director of the Pasadena Art Museum: in 1962 he curated the first museum exhibition of Pop Art, New Painting of Common Objects, and over the next three years he assembled the first retrospective of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell. Later, he was to be the Founder of the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian.
Hopps' work as a curator has been influential and far ranging. In l965, he was Commissioner for the American Pavilion at the Sao Paulo Biennale, featuring the art of Barnett Newman and six other artists including Frank Stella and Robert Irwin. In l972, he served as the American Commissioner at the Venice Biennale, where he included the challenging photography of Diane Arbus along with the work of five other artists. This marked the first presentation of photography as an art form at the Biennale.
Later exhibitions include the 1976 retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg, organized by the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution for the Bicentennial. A second Rauschenberg retrospective was organized in l997 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Menil Collection. Hopps also oversaw the major Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz retrospective for the Whitney Museum of American Art in l996.
Throughout Hopps distinguished career, he has maintained his close and committed relationships with artists. His great joy is knowing and exhibiting not only the celebrated artist, but also the unknown or obscure artist, probing art history to provide his audience with clearer insights into the past.