Despite its Tinseltown reputation, Los Angeles boasts a thriving art scene, with an impressive array of artists, galleries, studios, art schools, and art museums. Collections represent cultures and styles from all over the world, from millennia old art to cutting edge work. As an added bonus, Los Angeles’ art museums feature some of the most distinctive architectural designs in Southern California.
Admission fees won’t bust your budget; many museums offer free admittance on specific days. Families with children will appreciate the fact that many museums offer activities to get kids interested in the arts. With over 50 art museums in Los Angeles, choosing one to visit can be a challenge. Here are five to get you started.
The largest art museum in the western United States, the LACMA consists of seven buildings with art from around the world. Among its extensive collections are Latin American and Pre-Columbian art, Asian ceramics and sculpture, Islamic art, African woodwork, Greco-Roman sculpture, as well as modern art collections. The museum grounds are adorned with colossal art installations. LACMA has recently hosted several film retrospectives, exhibiting the works of Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick. Located next-door to the Page Museum, LACMA also offers visitors a view of the La Brea Tar Pits.
MOCA is not one, but three museums focused exclusively on contemporary art. The main branch at Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary are both located downtown. The Pacific Design Center is in West Hollywood. The collection of 6000+ works of art features a wide variety of styles including pop art, minimalism, abstract expressionism and include works by noted artists such as Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning, Basquiat and Lichtenstein. The Geffen uses its spacious exhibition halls to host multi-media installations and large-scale sculpture. Architecture fans should make sure to check out the Design Center. One ticket gives you same day access to both the Grand Avenue branch and Geffen Contemporary, or stop by Thursday evenings for free admission.
Tucked away behind the CAA building in Century City, the Annenberg is small in size but big in scope. Unlike many museums, it focuses on only one subject (photography) and only one exhibit, which rotates several times a year. Past exhibits have included National Geographic’s Power of Photography, Helmut Newton and an expose on rock and roll. Lectures by the photographers are hosted on Thursdays and as an added bonus, past lectures are available on the museum’s website. Lines are often long, so arrive early. Admission is free.
The Norton Simon Museum is located in Pasadena, just a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Its galleries feature 2000 years of South and Southeast Asian art and European art ranging from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including an outstanding collection of Impressionist art. Highlights include work by Rembrandt, van Gogh, Degas and Picasso. The museum features a sculpture garden and a theater for films and musical performances. It also provides a variety of free programs and lectures each month, including kid-friendly activities. Entrance is free the first Friday evening of each month.
With its curving marble walls and bold architectural design, the Getty Center both houses art and is art. Ride the tram up to the center’s arrival court at the top of the hill for sweeping views of the Los Angeles skyline. On a clear day you can see clear across from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Once inside, peruse medieval manuscripts, Renaissance and Impressionist collections, sculpture both modern and classical, and contemporary photography exhibits. Can’t get enough? There are hands-on workshops for the amateur artist. Need a break? Relax in the sprawling Central Garden, itself yet another work of art at the Getty Center. Admission is free.