Before moving to Los Angeles over two years ago, I can’t say that I ever really thought of the city as having much of an art scene. But, happily, I was wrong. Since moving here I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some of the best art and art-related experiences that the city has to offer. Here are four of my favorites:
The Getty Center
I’ll be the first to admit that mentioning The Getty Center in a discussion about the art scene in Los Angeles is, perhaps, a bit cliché. Still, it’s undeniable that the Getty still offers one of the best collections of art in Southern California, with an emphasis on pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, and decorative arts.
While the Getty’s collection is impressive, as a photographer, my favorite part is actually outside the museum, where the gardens, spectacular views of greater Los Angeles, and the crisp, curvilinear architecture of the museum’s buildings form the backdrop for some of my favorite photos.
The Getty is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, just off the 405, north of Sunset. Admission is free, but parking is $15 per vehicle (or $10 if you arrive after 3:00). You can also visit the Getty Villa (about 30-45 minutes away) on the same day without paying an additional parking fee (admission to the Villa is free, just like the museum).
One of LA’s newest art museums, The Broad opened just under a year ago, and the place has been packed ever since. The collection of nearly 2,000 pieces includes some of the most iconic pieces of the past several decades. My personal favorite is “Balloon Dog (Blue)” by Jeff Koons, a prolific artist and frequent copyright infringement litigant (relevant side note: I’m a copyright lawyer by trade).
In addition to the stainless steel figurative canine monstrosity, the Broad collection contains more than two dozen additional Koons pieces, including the infamous, if not a bit banal, “String of Puppies,” which copyright lawyers might recall from the seminal fair use case Rogers v. Koons.
If you’re not interested in nerding out on copyright art as much as I am, then be sure to check out what is perhaps the most lauded piece at the museum, at least for now – it’s a temporary, experimental installation by Yayoi Kusama entitled “Infinity Room,” which features “a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display.” Because capacity is so limited, you have to wait in line to see it, and you’re only allowed to stay in the chamber for about a minute.
Despite its impressive collection of high-profile works, The Broad isn’t for everyone. The Washington Post noted that of the 250 inaugural works on display, “too many of them are the usual high-end trash” (which leads one to wonder what, exactly, constitutes “high-end trash,” and further, what distinguishes it from mere “trash?”).
The Broad is located at 221 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles and is open every day of the week except Monday (hours vary so check the website). Admission is free, but tickets are required in advance (and they go very, very quickly). There is a same-day standby line for those who do not have advance tickets, the current status of which is updated regularly on Twitter @TheBroadStandby.
P.S., While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the neighboring Walt Disney Concert Hall, which features stunning architecture by L.A.’s own Frank Gehry.
Annenberg Space for Photography
Located in the business district of Century City, the Annenberg Space for Photography bills itself as a “cultural destination dedicated to exhibiting both digital and print photography in an intimate environment.” The exhibit space features traditional exhibition halls as well as stunning digital screens and projection capabilities to display high-definition imagery.
Although the exhibitions change regularly, they almost always focus on (pun shamefully intended) important cultural issues. As of this writing the two exhibitions are focused on refugee issues, including one called Refuge(e) that chronicles the journey of refugees from all over the world featuring images taken in nearly a dozen countries. A companion exhibition, New Americans, celebrates the lives of refugees who have successfully built new lives in the United States.
Outside of the museum itself, but within the same office complex, look for the underground concourse that connects the building to the Century Plaza Hotel across the street (2025 Avenue of the Stars). Lining the otherwise sterile walls are dozens of photographs showing the history of Century City and the construction of some of the area’s most iconic buildings, including the prominent Century Plaza Towers.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11-6 (closed Monday and Tuesday). Admission is free.
Perhaps best known for the Venice Beach Boardwalk, with its “MTV Spring Break” vibe, and the bodybuilders on muscle beach, Venice is a surprisingly artistic town. For those looking for street art, I highly recommend a stroll down Pacific Avenue, which parallels the Pacific Ocean and boardwalk, or Abbott Kinney Boulevard, which is slightly more inland. Also be sure to check out the public art walls along the boardwalk, just north of Muscle Beach, and south of the skate park.
If you’re looking for something more formal, check out the Venice Art Crawls, organized by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. Official crawl events take place four times a year and involve a number of Venice-area galleries – which could be anything from permanent exhibition spaces, to pop-up galleries, to a wall in a restaurant or something similar – open at the same time (typically 6-10PM) so visitors can maximize their visit. Many venues are open later, and most offer food and drink specials, so you can make an evening of it.
Finally, the Venice Art Walk project is an annual art event benefitting the Venice Family Clinic, which provides healthcare to uninsured and homeless residents of Venice. Although the centerpiece of the event is an art auction, the Art Walk also features art and architecture tours and studio tours. The 2016 event took place in May, and planning is just beginning for the 2017 event. Be sure to check out the Venice Art Walk website for details.
Chris Reed is a lawyer and photographer based in Los Angeles. For more on the L.A. art scene, and Los Angeles generally, follow him on Instagram @chrisreedla.