When it comes to the arts, Los Angeles has raised the bar and has set the standard with the quality of art that it creates and presents. With more than 100 museums boasting priceless works of art, original sculptures, avant-garde objects and pop-culture icons, LA boasts the highest percentage of visitors who cross the thresholds of its many museums of any major U.S. city.
“We have an extraordinary collection of art museums, performing art venues, and galleries,” says Michael McDowell, senior director of Cultural Tourism & Affinity Markets for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. “Cultural tourism ranks high among travelers, and LA has so much to offer visitors who want an art-filled experience. Whether it’s to view paintings by some of the world’s greatest artists or to enjoy a spectacular operatic performance, LA offers travelers a diverse and thought-provoking arts experience.”
Visitors to Los Angeles often get their first glimpse of LA’s vibrant art scene as they descend into Los Angeles International Airport, where a series of 100-foot-high, colorfully lit pylons and 32-foot-high letters spelling out “LAX” are visible to airline passengers from 3,000 feet high. These permanent public art installations have become symbolic and are a well-known example of the LA’s public art. In addition, many of the airport’s terminals feature permanent and rotating art exhibits.
Among the City’s prized museums is the Getty Villa, an extraordinary full reproduction of a Roman pleasure palace filled with Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities with recently expanded galleries. The grounds also feature an outdoor theater, indoor auditorium, museum store, and café specializing in Mediterranean fare. Along Museum Row is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opened in 2008, with the Resnick Pavilion following in 2010. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, these two buildings are among the nation’s largest, column-free art spaces with loft-like galleries housing works from 1945 to the present. A sky-lit upper floor bathes the spaces in natural light. Other well-known museums include the Getty Center, Museum of Tolerance, Skirball Cultural Center, Hammer Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, just to name a few.
Space and science enthusiasts can head to the Griffith Observatory, California Science Center or Natural History Museum. Built in 1935 with commanding views from just beneath the famed Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory is one of the City’s most iconic destinations and visited attractions. A recent, $94 million renovation added another 40,000 square feet of public space that includes a multi-level exhibit gallery, 200-seat theater, Wolfgang Puck café and gift shop. The California Science Center, located Downtown near the USC campus, features a new, permanent Ecosystems wing, which has doubled the museum’s amount of exhibition space. Within the gallery are a blend of live plants and animals with hands-on science exhibits representing 11 immersive environments. A 188,000-gallon kelp tank teeming with 1,500 live fish serves as a centerpiece. The new, large-scale Dinosaur Hall at the neighboring Natural History Museum boasts the largest individual dinosaur fossil collection in the world, with major mounts, including the world’s only T. Rex growth series, displaying skeletons from juvenile to adult.
Touted as the “entertainment capital of the world,” it’s not surprising that LA is home to several entertainment museums. There is the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE, celebrating outstanding accomplishments in music. The Hollywood Museum, housed in the historic Max Factor Building, pays homage to movie-making history with a vast display of memorabilia. Nearby, Madame Tussauds Hollywood offers a collection of life-like wax figures, featuring movie and sports celebrities from the past and present.
The City is also home to several significant historic structures that date back to the region’s humble beginnings. The Avila Adobe and the San Fernando Mission are registered landmarks filled with priceless artifacts and artwork.
When it comes to performing arts, Los Angeles boasts more venues than any other metropolis, including New York City. The Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards™ presentation at the famed crossroads of Hollywood and Highland, is now the permanent home to Cirque du Soleil’s “IRIS: A Journey Through the World of Cinema”. The Music Center, a performing arts complex in the heart of Downtown LA, includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. The complex is home to the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale, Center Theatre Group, LA Opera, and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. Historic venues, such as the Hollywood Bowl and The Greek Theatre, as well as the Pantages Theatre, also attract thousands of visitors annually.
LA Arts Month takes place in January, but in reality, the momentum for the City’s rich cultural scene is non-stop. Upcoming cultural events include “Aphrodite and the Gods of Love” at the Getty Villa through July 9; “Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity” at the Getty Center through August 12; “La Boheme” at Los Angeles Opera, Music Center May 12-June 2; “War Horse” at the Ahmanson Theatre June 13-22; Bolshoi Ballet presents “Swan Lake” at the Music Center June 7-10; and the Los Angeles Film Festival at L.A. LIVE June 14-24.
Before the year concludes, Los Angeles will welcome an array of new cultural developments and attractions, including the arrival of the USS Iowa to the Port of Los Angeles. This World War II battleship will be permanently berthed at the San Pedro Waterfront as a museum and memorial. The California Science Center will be home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which embarked on its first mission in May 1992. In the midst of a seven-year, $135 million renovation is the Natural History Museum, which will open a new, permanent exhibit focusing on Southern California’s environmental and cultural history. The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is currently being built in Downtown’s historic Italian Hall adjacent to Olvera Street.
Two new, multimillion-dollar arts projects are slated for completion in 2013. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts broke ground in March 2012 and will transform a Beverly Hills city block into a vibrant new cultural destination with two distinct buildings: the historic Beverly Hills Post Office and a new, 500-seat Goldsmith Theater.
The Broad, located across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown, will feature a 120,000-square-foot museum housing philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad’s extensive collection of contemporary art.