On your California Tours vacation to fabulous Los Angeles, it’s easy to add an art destination or two. Just like the city, the art world of Los Angeles sprawls and surprises, with any medium on your radar screen accessible via the city’s web of freeways.
Every time of year, L.A. is rich with major exhibits and collections open to the public for free or a nominal charge. Downtown, next to the prehistoric La Brea Tar Pits and Museum (tarpits.org), Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (lacma.org) huge collection has something for everyone – including modern, Asian, Latin American, American, ancient art, and more. The J. Paul Getty Museum’s two campuses (getty.edu/art/collection) have exhibitions with depth and variety, in stunning settings. For contemporary art, consider the Museum of Contemporary Art (moca.org), the new Broad Museum (thebroad.org), and The Hammer Museum (hammer.ucla.edu).
Off the beaten path, smaller galleries and museums reveal Los Angeles’ past and present – its vintage Hollywood glamour, mix of ethnicities, smooth surfer lines, and modernist chic. Here are a few favorites:
- Eames House, the modern Pacific Palisades home and studio of husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Eames (eamesfoundation.org) showcases the influential couple’s take on contemporary furniture, architecture, art, and living. You can combine this with a visit to the Getty Villa, also in Pacific Palisades, but please note that advance reservations (bookable from the website) are required.
- For film buffs, The Hollywood Museum (thehollywoodmuseum.com), in the historic Max Factor Building in Hollywood, displays one of the largest troves of treasures from the silent screen, Hollywood’s golden era, film noir, feature films, and more.
- At Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station (bergamotstation.com), an eclectic mix of more than 30 galleries and a café is just 15 minutes by car from Santa Monica Pier.
- On the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, Watts Towers are towering sculptures built by Simon Rodia. The outsider artist worked with found materials such as rebar and colored glass from soda bottles, with hand tools alone, and no predetermined design. Guided tours are available for a nominal fee (wattstowers.org/tours).
- The Los Angeles Times’ Arts Reviews section provides a good look at what’s happening in L.A. art (latimes.com/entertainment/arts/reviews/).
And don’t forget to pack your camera and sketchbook to record your take on L.A.’s visual palette during your California Tours vacation. From the translucent waves at your beach destination, the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles and the hills beyond from your Griffith Observatory stop, or the colorful produce at your visit to the Farmers’ Market, each L.A. stop has its own unique, and memorable, visual splendor.