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Los Angeles/Orange County: Art Museums

The Los Angeles arts scene is reflective of the city itself – spread out for miles and constantly evolving. Daunting as its landscape is, however, its dynamic art scene is a testament to the city’s equally diverse cultural makeup.

Perhaps the most notable of L.A.’s acclaimed museums is the J. Paul Getty Center, located just outside Brentwood in the hills above the 405 freeway. The sweeping white travertine museum designed by architect Richard Meier features lush gardens and arguably the best view of the Los Angeles skyline. The museum’s sister site, the Getty Villa, is located just a few miles north in Pacific Palisades. The structure is modeled after a Greek villa and houses the Getty’s collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities.

The Wilshire district is home to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which boasts the largest art collection in the Western United States. The 20 acre, seven building space houses noted collections of Japanese and Islamic Art, as well as a Latin American art collection which spans from early pre-Columbian pieces to those of modern masters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Most visible is Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” outdoor installation at the steps of the museum entrance, which has become not only a LACMA trademark, but also a Los Angeles landmark photo opportunity.

Downtown, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is Los Angeles’ leading museum in contemporary art with a collection of over 5,000 works dating from 1940, including examples of abstract expressionism from artists like Jackson Pollock and pop art by Roy Lichtenstein, as well as works by artists still working today.

Local universities UCLA and USC also feature on campus art museums that are free and open to the public. UCLA’s Fowler Museum is dedicated to the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas and offers frequent public programs and hands on arts events for kids. USC’s Fisher Museum of Art houses a significant collection of 19th century American landscapes as well as
16th and 17th century Northern European paintings. UCLA’s Wilshire Boulevard-located Hammer Museum offers free Thursday admission and is host to frequent film screenings, lecture series and poetry readings from leading members of the music, art and literary communities.

Above all, the Angeleno art scene encourages exploration. A stroll through the many galleries of Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station or a trip to the monthly Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk will bring visitors up close with the latest in local contemporary artists’ work, many with prices that can fit even a novice collector’s budget. (Lauren Roberts)

Los Angeles Art Museums: Art Museums Around Los Angeles

Below are our Los Angeles Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Los Angeles Art.

Armory Center for the Arts

Armory Center for the Arts Information

Public Transportation: Very Good (easily accessible by Metro buses 260, 267, 361, and 687 and the Gold Line at the Memorial Park Station, Foothill Transit buses 187 and 189, and Pasadena ARTS buses 20, 40, and 50)
Handicapped Accessibility: Good
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday Noon–5 p.m. Closed Mondays and major holidays
Admission: $5 Suggested Donation. Free for Seniors, Students, and Members
Tour: Guided group tours are available during normal museum hours …more…

Getty Center

The Getty Center is situated on a 110-acre site overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. The jaw-dropping location is a match (or more than a match) for what’s inside the J. Paul Getty Museum: five museum galleries showcasing pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, and decorative arts; a collection of 19th- and 20th–century American and European photography; contemporary and modern sculpture; and a selection of Greek and Roman antiquities. ...more...

Getty Villa Malibu

Affiliated with the Getty Center in Los Angeles, this Pacific Palisades outpost focuses on the arts of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. The permanent collection includes 44,000 antiquities. At any time, approximately 1,200 works are displayed in the institute’s 23 galleries. The objects date from 6500 BC to 400 AD. Special exhibitions also change regularly and have recently included Aztec art, ancient glassmaking, and Roman Ephebe from Naples. ...more...

Hammer Museum, UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)

One of three public arts units of the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA, The Hammer Museum presents exhibitions of contemporary and historical work in all media of the visual arts. Committed to promoting cultural understanding, to introducing the work of underrepresented artists, and to interpreting art of the past and present, the Museum has a series of temporary exhibitions in addition to displaying selections from its permanent collections. ...more...

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Garden resides on an estate in San Marino that you may recognize from the movies. The gardens cover 120 acres and contain rare plants from around the world, separated by theme (Palm Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Desert Garden, etc.). After taking in the sunshine and exotic greenery, inside you’ll find an art collection that consists of works of 18th- and 19th-century British …more…

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a seven-building complex located in the heart of Los Angeles. Currently undergoing a 10-year expansion, the museum is growing substantially in order to display its collection of works from around the world that span, as the museum claims, “the entire history of art.”

This is the largest museum west of Chicago, whose impressive holdings include the collection of Asian art housed in …more…

Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (MOCA)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles has three functioning locations in L.A.: the MOCA Grand Avenue downtown, the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, and the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

The main location, MOCA Grand Avenue, houses upwards of 5,000 contemporary artworks (from 1940 forward). Here you’ll find works by de Kooning, Hockney, Lichtenstein, Rothko, and more, as well as high-profile traveling exhibitions (recently Louise Bourgeois, which originated at …more…

Norton Simon Museum

In the 1970s, industrialist and art enthusiast Norton Simon had a collection of more than 4,000 objects and was looking for a place to house the works. As a result, the financially ailing Pasadena Art Museum became the Norton Simon Museum.

Built in 1969 from the design by Thornton Ladd and John Kelsey (the exterior is covered with 115,000 tiles made by Edith Heath), the museum underwent a major renovation and …more…

Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA)

This is the Los Angeles county’s premier institution for art, welcoming 60,000 visitors each year, with 2,500 items in its permanent collection. It focuses on California art from the early 20th century to the present day. Since its founding in 1918 as the Laguna Beach Art Association, it grew to include the communities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, and officially changed its name in 1996. It is also the …more…