10 Questions With … Malcolm Warner

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Malcolm Warner | Photo by James Cant
Malcolm Warner | Photo by James Cant

Laguna Art Museum’s executive director offers a glimpse into some of his favorite things and reflects on the museum’s 100-year milestone.

By Laguna Beach Magazine Staff


Originally from England, Malcolm Warner became executive director of Laguna Art Museum six years ago and has lived in town, in the Arch Beach Heights neighborhood, with his family since 2013.

Before coming to Laguna, he earned a doctorate at The Courtauld Institute of Art, an independent college within the University of London, and went on to work at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn.; and The San Diego Museum of Art. Notably, he is considered the leading authority on Sir John Everett Millais, a British pre-Raphaelite painter, on whom Warner wrote his doctoral dissertation.

Now, as Laguna Art Museum begins celebrating the centennial of its roots this year—2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Laguna Beach Art Association, which eventually started the museum—Warner prepares to usher the local landmark into its next chapter. Here, Warner shares his thoughts on the community’s long-standing art institution (the only museum solely dedicated to collecting and showcasing the full breadth of California art) and life in Laguna.


Laguna Beach Magazine: What do you like about Laguna?
Malcolm Warner: The natural beauty, not surprisingly. I’m thinking especially of views of the ocean from the hills. Also, I get to run Laguna Art Museum.

LBM: What’s your favorite thing to do in town?
MW: Seeing a great play at the [Laguna] Playhouse would be one of my favorite things to do. Another would be doing nothing.

LBM: Any favorite restaurants in Laguna? What do you order there?
MW: Brussels Bistro—for the beer and the mussels

LBM: If you could change one thing in Orange County, what would it be?
MW: We need to change our attitude toward public transport.

LBM: What hobbies do you enjoy?
MW: I’m addicted to English Premier League soccer, now thankfully available on TV, and, in some limited sense, I play the guitar.

LBM: What’s the last book you read?
MW: David Byrne’s “How Music Works”

LBM: What’s something you’re looking forward to this year?
MW: The museum’s centennial celebrations will be fun. I’ve learned a lot about our history and especially look forward to the commemorative book, documentary film and exhibitions that we’ve been working on.

LBM: What’s something that you find challenging?
MW: The work-life balance

LBM: Where is your favorite place in the world to visit and why?
MW: London—for the great museums and the wonderful friends I still have there. I did my studies in London and lived there for 16 years before moving to the U.S.

LBM: What’s your favorite work of art and what do you like about it?
MW: That would be [the] … masterpiece “Las Meninas” [by Diego Velázquez] in the Prado museum in Madrid. Portraits are a particular interest of mine, and “Las Meninas” is the most complex and enigmatic portrait ever made. On one of its many levels, it’s about the very nature of art.

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