Henry T. Hopkins, a prominent leader in the arts who at various times led the Hammer Museum at UCLA and the San Francisco Museum of Art — which was renamed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art during his stewardship — has died. He was 81.
Hopkins died Sunday of cancer at his residence near the UCLA campus, where he taught for many years.
Hopkins was chair of the UCLA Department of Art from 1991-94, serving concurrently as director of UCLA’s Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery. During that time, he helped negotiate the agreement for the Armand Hammer Museum of Art to become part of UCLA and was its director from 1994-98, when he returned to the UCLA Department of Art until his retirement in 2002.
Prior to his positions at UCLA, Hopkins received his masters of fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1955. From 1952-54, he served as a photographer in the United States Army, stationed in Augsburg, Germany. In 1957, Hopkins came to UCLA where he was a graduate student in art history and completed course work toward a PhD. He taught art history at UCLA Extension from 1959-68; among his students were many of the primary Los Angeles collectors.
In 1960, Hopkins opened the Huysman Gallery in Los Angeles, where he was the first to show young artists such as Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell and Joe Goode. A year later, he became the assistant curator of modern art for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and established its education department. From 1969-74, he was director of the Fort Worth Art Center Museum before taking the same position at the San Francisco Museum of Art, which became the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1975. He returned to Los Angeles in 1986 to head the Frederick Weisman Art Foundation. He moved to UCLA’s Department of Art in 1991.
Hopkins painted and drew throughout his career but showed work only rarely in group exhibitions since he felt it to be a conflict of interest with his museum work. He was an expert in 20th century art and authored three books on contemporary artists: “Fifty West Coast Artists” (1982), “Clyford Still” (1976) and “California Paintings and Sculpture: The Modern Era” (1976). He had numerous articles published in such journals as ARTnews, Art in America, Art Voices, and Image and Issues.
He is survived by three children — Victoria Shegoian of San Francisco, John Hopkins of Oceanside, Calif., and Chris Hopkins of Miles City, Mont. — five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for a later date at the Hammer Museum.
Hopkins was an avid fly fisherman, and the family has asked that any donations be made to the Henry's Fork Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving a major watershed in eastern Idaho, at P.O. Box 550, Ashton, Idaho, or online at www.henrysfork.org/contribute_memorials.php.