The art scene in Los Angeles is world class. Over the past several decades our community has put its resources into building and expanding some of the best museums in the country. We are the West Coast venue of choice for traveling exhibits, surpassing even San Francisco for internationally renowned art. We are exceptionally fortunate in this, and we encourage all our readers to get out and see all that L.A. art has to offer. We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in our coverage but we hope to offer a base level of guidance for your exploration of art in L.A.
The Hammer Museum is a part of UCLA. The Museum focuses on modern mediums and bold artistic statements. The Armand Hammer Collection is filled with the strong styles that emerged in the 1800s with important works from Cézanne, Gauguin, Pissarro, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Singer Sargent. The late great businessman, Dr. Armand Hammer, started the museum which is located in the heart of Westwood, right by his company Occidental Petroleum Corporation. In addition to Dr. Hammer’s personal collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist painting, the museum has an active calendar of programs and exhibitions that are both affecting and modern. A current exhibit focuses on the subject of graphic design, and how the medium has evolved. The exhibit also examines the accessibility of the modern era and the impact of design on branding and entertainment – especially in our app driven mobile world.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Housing one of the finest collections of British portraiture in the world is the Huntington Library Art Collection. A visit to The Huntington is like stepping into an episode of Downton Abbey. Perhaps the most famous paintings of Britain’s Golden Age are the masterpieces, The Blue Boy, by Thomas Gainsborough and Pinkie, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. In addition to its magnificent collection of portraits, The Huntington also is home to one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, and one of the earliest illustrated manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales, among many other rare documents. The Huntington also is surrounded by 120 acres of world-famous gardens, divided into more than a dozen thematic areas. These include: the Rose Garden, the Shakespeare and Herb Gardens, the Desert Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Australian Garden, the Subtropical and Jungle Garden, the Palm Garden, the Camellia Collection, and finally, the Children’s Garden and Conservatory.
Museum of Latin American Art
The Museum of Latin American Art or MOLAA, as it’s known, is located in Long Beach and is relatively having been founded in 1996. It is the only museum in the United States that is exclusively dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. The exhibition Lola Álvarez Bravo: The Photography of an Era, will be on view at the Museum of Latin American Art until January 27, 2013. The show features the work of photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo, one of Mexico’s most important photographers from the twentieth century. The exhibition is comprised of a recently discovered group of photographs including unpublished negatives and archival material of Lola’s work.
Skirball Cultural Center
The Skirball Center is an important part of arts and culture in Los Angeles. Hosting over 600,000 visitors annually, the Center was founded to connect 4,000 years of Jewish history with the democratic ideals of modern United States. In a timely exhibit, Decades of Dissent: Democracy in Action, 1960–1980 features protest posters and political art from the radically charged era of the 60s and 70s. Themes of peace, civil rights and the environment reflect the messages of the posters. The exhibition includes a gallery soundtrack of protest music by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Marvin Gaye.
Natural History Museum
Fossils and the history of life on earth are the subjects at the Natural History Museum. This behemoth of a facility holds a collection of hundreds of thousands of fossils, mainly ocean critters from around this area (California, SW United States, NW Mexico). The work of the very popular Dinosaur Institute showcases the Mesozoic era, when there were many types of dinosaurs roaming the earth. They also have the Rancho La Brea department, which houses the specimens from the 600 species of plants and animals that were found in the La Brea Tar Pits. That’s right. You can become acquainted with the ancient beings who lived right here in L.A. With 35 million specimens and objects in the collection, the Natural History Museum offers a detailed account of the diversity of life on Earth.
Chinese American Museum
The history of the Chinese in Los Angeles is fascinating. The Chinese American Museum celebrates the Chinese American experience in Los Angeles. The exhibitions include historical presentations such as a recreation of the Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop. This was a popular shop in the 1890s when the Chinese faced terrible discrimination and racism. The Chinese Americans formed Chinatown in order to be self-sufficient. The museum tells the story of Chinese immigrants as they settled in Los Angeles.
Music lovers, just imagine four entire floors of engaging and informative exhibits about the art, technology and history of recorded music. This is what visitors to the Grammy Museum, at L.A. LIVE will discover. Launched in 2008, the Grammy Museum also features artifacts, films and stories from the 50-year history of the Grammys. There are interactive exhibits and recorded music fans of all ages are welcome. On the fourth floor you’ll find the Songwriters Hall of Fame Gallery, the Enduring Traditions section, and an important section depicting the impact of music on America’s social and political fabric. Techies will love the third floor, with its behind-the-scenes look at the modern recording process as well as the history and evolution of the equipment and techniques of the art form. Finally, working your way down to the second floor Clive Davis Theater, you’ll be taken on a journey backstage at the 50th Annual Grammy Celebration. Also on the second floor is the Special Exhibits Gallery, which features exciting rotating exhibits.
The California African American Museum
As museum director Charmaine Jefferson says in a recent message, part of the California African American Museum’s mission is to “recognize the critical value of the African American voice in and about the world.” Visitors are sure to be enlightened. Having opened its doors in 1984, coincidental with the Olympic Games, the CAAM has been evolving ever since. Housed in its 44,000 square feet, are 3 full-size exhibition galleries, conference center, theater, research library, and gorgeous glass-ceiling Courtyard. Located at 39th and Figueroa Streets, near the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, the CAAM is handy to other attractions such as the Museum of Science and Industry and the Exposition Park Rose Garden. In addition to historical exhibitions such as African American Military Portraits from the American Civil War, the museum also exhibits works of by African American artists and presents engaging conversations by the artists and historians.
The Hollywood Museum
One doesn’t need much more of an introduction than “The Official Museum of Hollywood.” We are all star-struck in some degree and here — housed in the historic Max Factor Building at Highland and Hollywood — are four floors jammed-packed with important Hollywood artifacts, stunning exhibits, posters, automobiles and everything else star-gazers and film buffs might want to see. Wardrobes, make-up rooms, props, and even the infamous Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from Silence of the Lambs are there for the gazing and gawking. Rotating exhibits are fascinating and have included Marilyn Monroe, TV Memories, I Love Lucy (Lucille Ball), Jean Harlow and Michael Jackson. The Hollywood Museum’s art deco building is a genuine piece of Hollywood history as well. Purchased by Max Factor in 1928, just before the Great Depression, it did not open for business until 1935, but soon became “The Place To Go” for Hollywood society and working women who wanted to patronize The Make Up King.
Santa Monica Museum of Art
Located in Southern California’s largest art gallery and cultural complex, Bergamot Station, the SMMoA exhibits local, national and international contemporary art in a striking, dramatic building. Well-regarded for its risk-taking in exhibition selections, the Santa Monica has most recently presented work from such artists as Michael, Queenland, Kianja Strober, Agnes Denes, Mickalene Thomas, Isa Melsheimer and Milton Glaser and regularly presents “walk-throughs” of artists’ work with an informed artist guide. The mission of the SMMoA includes a strong outreach to all ages in an effort to connect the public with members of the local art community and the greater art world.