The Los Angeles Art & Architecture Guide
While Los Angeles may have a reputation as a one industry town, the burgeoning art scene, and the city’s incredible, endemic architecture, tell a wildly different story. While the LACMA and MoCA may be the city’s most well-known icons, Los Angeles is packed with treasures.
Matthew Marks Gallery523 W. 24th St., Chelsea | 212.243.0200
With a stable of some of our favorite contemporary artists and photographers—Luigi Ghiri, Nan Goldin and Terry Winters—gallerist Matthew Marks has made a name for himself for his offbeat, yet totally on-point exhibitions. There are three outposts in Chelsea.
The Broad221 S. Grand St., Downtown | 213.232.6200
The Broad suffered some significant delays in opening, but when the doors did finally swing open, Angelenos found an entirely columnless, sky-lit gallery by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. And all the impatience was soon forgotten (the free admission helps). The museum houses and continually exhibits Eli and Edythe (aka Edye) Broad’s collection of contemporary art, which is one of the largest and most significant worldwide. Plus, they’ve got great taste and have amassed large collections of works by artists like Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool. The fact that restaurateur Bill Chait of Bestia and Republique fame and Tim Hollingsworth of The French Laundry are teaming up on the restaurant next door should provide LA residents with even more incentive to head downtown. Meanwhile, tickets are hard to come by but so worth trying to snag. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy The Broad.
Gamble House4 Westmoreland Pl., Pasadena | 626.793.3334
An architectural survey of Los Angeles isn't complete without seeing the work of brothers Charles and Henry Greene who pioneered the Arts & Crafts movement in California. The Gamble House in Pasadena is a particularly outstanding specimen of their endemic architectural style, as Greene & Greene custom-designed every single joint and beam in this 1908 bungalow, from the remarkably crafted staircase to the stained glass doors in the entryway, to the furniture and even the textiles—all full of references to the local natural surroundings. There's a standard hour-long tour, though architecture buffs and carpentry aficionados will appreciate the longer, more intensive options, one of which is led by a woodworker.
Neutra VDL Studio and Residences2300 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake
Richard Neutra built the “VDL Research House I” in the '30s as a live/work space where he proved, with sweeping windows, that spatial limitations need not constrict one’s lifestyle or budget. It’s a premier example of modern architecture in California and is under continual renovation by researchers at Cal Poly Pomona; these same architecture students give excellent tours on Saturdays from 11 to 3.
Mid-Century Modern Home Tour
In the ‘40s, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler were the catalysts that turned Los Angeles into a hotbed for modernist architecture. Today, you'll find entire neighborhoods full of their work. Start at the Trousdale Estates in Beverly Hills where you'll see some of the glitzier (but still, generally one-story) specimens by Paul Williams, Wallace Neff, A. Quincy Jones, and more. Next, head to Brentwood's Crestwood Hills, where, besides the occasional Frank Lloyd Wright or Richard Meier, you'll see 30-plus A. Quincy Jones homes, all part of the Mutual Housing Association's planned neighborhood from the ‘50s. Finally, drive the two streets in Mar Vista known for their low-slung, modest “Modernique” homes, a case study project pioneered by Gregory Ain.
The Annenberg Space for Photography2000 Ave. of the Stars, Century City | 213.403.3000
A view of the Century Plaza Towers from below (the duo were designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who designed The World Trade Center, and the visual similarities are eery), and free admission are just bonuses: The photo exhibits here are both excellent and manageable.
MOCA250 S. Grand Ave., Downtown | 213.626.6222
Until the opening of the Broad across the street, MOCA was LA's only museum wholly dedicated to contemporary art. As always, there's something great to see at their downtown location, their outpost in the Pacific Design Center, and the super rad Geffen Contemporary, housed in a former police car warehouse in Little Tokyo.
LACMA5905 Wilshire Blvd., West Hollywood | 323.857.6000
Undeniably, LACMA pulls LA's biggest art exhibits—and many of them. The campus is huge, the permanent exhibits are great, and it's all kid-friendly, too. If you have little ones in tow, definitely head to the Boone Gallery, which is located on the second floor of the Hammer Building. There, you'll find a space where little ones can actually put brush to paper and make art. While on-site, sign them up for a free LACMA youth membership—they can visit the museum for free whenever they want (and bring one adult guest along).
The Eames House203 Chautauqua Blvd., Pacific Palisades | 310.459.9663
While it will cost you (a lot) to take a tour of the inside of Charles and Ray Eames’ house/studio, it’s pretty incredible to see how warmly this husband and wife team lived, as well as their iconic, modern furniture in situ. While indoor tours range from $275-$400 (depending on group size), it’s only $10 to walk the grounds and see its iconic, Mondrian-esque exterior. Reservations for both are required.
MAK Center835 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood | 323.651.1510
R.M. Schindler’s 1920’s home is the headquarters for this Art & Architecture Center. There are exhibitions and events throughout the year, but the main pull is visiting the house that Schindler designed as a communal live/work space. It’s an icon of modern design.
Murphy Sculpture GardenCharles E. Young Dr. E., Westwood | 310.443.7000
Sculptural works from the likes of Alexander Calder, Barbara Hepworth, Henri Mattisse, Isamu Noguchi, and others, sprawl across five acres of UCLA’s campus. You can wander around yourself, or arrange a tour though they book up far in advance.
Blum & Poe2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City | 310.836.2062
If you're an artist in LA, one of your goals is probably to get a show at Blum & Poe, one of, if not the, best LA galleries for contemporary art. It's a wonderfully big and airy space, and there's always something interesting showing.
Barnsdall Art Park4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz | 323.644.6275
Overlooking the Hollywood Hills and crowned by Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, built in the early ‘20s for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, this park draws locals and tourists alike for art classes, outdoor movies, and Friday afternoon wine tastings.
Frank Lloyd Wright Tour
While there are a handful of Frank Lloyd Wrights in L.A., all but Hollyhock House are closed to the public. That shouldn’t deter you, though, as there are several “Textile Block” homes on the list, including Ennis House, which you’ll likely recognize from Bladerunner. The house is composed of ornately stamped blocks inspired by Mayan temples that are so stunning, you won’t care that you don’t get to go inside. Use the Barnsdall Foundation's convenient google map to track them all down.