Art world loses Luchita Hurtado, lifelong artist 'discovered' at 97

Two years ago, Hurtado was picked to be in a biennial group exhibition at the Hammer Museum for emerging artists.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Artist Luchita Hurtado, whose paintings spanned decades, but was relatively unknown until two years ago, has died just a few months before her 100th birthday.

Hurtado passed away at home in Los Angeles on Thursday at age 99.

Two years ago, she was picked to be in a biennial group exhibition at the Hammer Museum for emerging artists. That usually means young artists, but Hurtado became an art world sensation at age 97.

She had been painting most of her life, but her family life came first, and much of her work had been relatively undiscovered.

We spoke in her studio where Hurtado continued to paint, saying painting was her diary.

"I'm still working. Yes, I am. It's like living, you know. Your life is your life. And I choose to spend my days painting," she said.

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After the Hammer show, an exhibit of her work opened in London. On its way back to the U.S., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art put it on exhibit, the first time Hurtado had a major retrospective in the city she's lived in since 1951.

LACMA Director Michael Govan said, "She's graced our world with her art and her presence for so long. It's just that we haven't known it."

At her LACMA show opening night, she said it was one of the best moments of her life.

Her painting was never about being famous, but she was clearly pleased to finally be appreciated.

"I'm delighted I have had the successes I have," Hurtado said, adding with a chuckle, "Thank you...thank you to whoever is in charge."

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