Timken Museum
A pre-renovation image of the Timken Museum. Courtesy of the museum

The Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park, known for its European old masters and free admission, announced Thursday it will reopen to the public on June 8 following a two-year renovation.

The classic mid-century modern structure underwent a floor-to-ceiling renovation with new gallery wall colors, upgraded lighting and ceilings, new labels, antiviral technology and advanced air filtration.

Visitors will immediately notice restoration of the bronze that covers much of the entrance. The dark black patina accumulated over decades has been polished away to reveal the original golden finish. 

“The required, pandemic-related closure led us to make this long-discussed renovation a reality,” said Executive Director Megan Pogue, who described the 57-year-old building as a “jewel box.”

“The Timken remains a welcome destination to enjoy, contemplate and appreciate great art,” she said. “Our iconic building remains architecturally unique in Balboa Park, and of course, admission to the Timken will remain free to all.” 

The Timken preserves the Putnam Collection of European old masters, American art, and Russian icons. To celebrate the reopening, the museum announced the acquisition of two 19th century American works: Ella Ferris Pell’s Salomé, reportedly the most famous painting of her career, and the Bust of Eve, by sculptor Thomas Ball. 

Detail of Ella Ferris Pell’s 1890 “Salome.” Courtesy Timken Museum

“Ella Ferris Pell’s 1890 Salomé is the first work by a female artist to become part of the Timken’s permanent collection — and it will not be the last,” said Derrick R.
Cartwright, director of curatorial affairs. “Pell’s career is illustrative of the challenges faced by many accomplished female artists during the late 19th century.” 

“With the addition of Pell’s Salomé and Ball’s Bust of Eve, we will be able to offer a much richer history of the art of North America,” Cartwright said.

The Timken joins the Mingei International Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego as the third art institution in San Diego to reopen in the past year following extensive renovation.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.