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Get a Little Culture – Fine Art Museums in Los Angeles

Get a Little Culture – Fine Art Museums in Los Angeles

Many people think of Los Angeles as a place full of glamorous celebrities, palatial homes, sandy beaches and endless entertainment options. They’re right, but only up to a point. As it turns out, Los Angeles has a lot more to offer than Hollywood glitz and unparalleled performing arts.

This fair city with the almost-perfect climate offers shopping to die for, spectator sports at all levels and more amusement parks and outdoor activities than any reasonable person could shake a stick at. But as fine as all those things are, did you ever think of Los Angeles as a global center for fine arts? If you haven’t, you probably should.

Los Angeles boasts more high culture than many people realize, enough for even the most sophisticated connoisseur. Almost everyone’s heard of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, although their knowledge of the Los Angeles art scene might not go much farther than that. But people in the know realize that Los Angeles is home to some of the most impressive art collections in the world. Diverse and eclectic, the city’s holdings include modern art, classical art, Oriental art, American art and more. Enough fine art that the city’s collections are almost beyond compare. In a nutshell, Los Angeles boasts some of the best fine art museums in the country.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is conveniently located on Hollywood’s Wilshire Boulevard. The largest museum of its type west of Chicago, LACMA is also one of the finest, featuring a world-renowned collection that spans more than 100,000 pieces of art from around the globe. American, European, Southeast Asian and Islamic art from all time periods are represented, but its Pavilion for Japanese Art is particularly exceptional. Its collection of Japanese Edo paintings is only surpassed by the collection owned by Akihito, the Emperor of Japan. While you’re there, expect to see masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, Holbein, Titian, Tintoretto, Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Cassatt, Warhol and Lichtenstein, among others.

Wilshire Boulevard is also the location of the renowned Armand Hammer Museum. It specializes in hosting high-profile, daring visiting exhibits, often consisting of contemporary and experimental art. The Hammer’s permanent collection is mostly traditional western European and American art, including works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt, Degas, Cassatt, Gilbert Stuart and Vincent van Gogh.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has three separate locations, two downtown and one in Hollywood. Together they house one of the country’s finest collections of contemporary American and European art. Limited to art from 1940 through the present, its holdings include expressionist abstracts, pop art and work by emerging artists. The main building on downtown’s Grand Avenue, designed by renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, is a work of art unto itself.

Billionaire J. Paul Getty did us all a favor by establishing the internationally-acclaimed Getty Center atop a hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains. Much like the main building of MOCA, the main Getty Center building, designed by Richard Meier, is a visually stunning piece of architectural art. The bulk of the collection in the main building includes illuminated manuscripts, European drawings and contemporary photography in addition to works by Chardin, Cezanne, Degas, Dürer, van Gogh and a variety of other prominent artists. A sophisticated computerized window louver system allows many of the Getty’s paintings to be viewed as intended, bathed by natural light. Antiquities from ancient Rome, Greece and Etruria are housed in the nearby, equally-beautiful Getty Villa.

Nearby Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum of Art is small and quaint but it houses one of the world’s finest private collections of European, American and Asian art. On display are masterpieces by Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, Goya, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Klee, Rodin, Renoir and Diego Rivera, along with a superb assemblage of Southeast Asian sculpture. This museum may be small, but its collection is very sweet.

These fine art museums are just a sampling of what Los Angeles has to offer. On your next visit to Los Angeles, try saving enough time to visit at least some of the city’s art museums so you can get a little culture.