Visual Arts in Los Angeles 8

LA’s art scene is having an artistic renaissance

I’m ensconced in a small dark room, balancing on a narrow platform over a shallow pool of water when the door is shut behind me. Suddenly, I’m thrust into the world of light and mirrors, where I’m reflected within the Infinity Mirrored Room, created by Yayoi Kusama, at The Broad, Los Angeles’ newest art museum.

Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of contemporary art includes Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Barbara Kruger. The exhibits provoke robust conversations about what drives modern art and culture. Admission to The Broad is free, but, due to its popularity, admittance requires advance reservations and, even then, you will wait in line. But, it’s worth it.

A visit to The Broad is a perfect way to kick off a weekend trip to LA. It will transform the way you think about the city’s rep for the Kardashianization of culture. LA often surprises visitors with its breadth and quality of fine art, thanks to institutions like The Getty and the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Grand Avenue and Geffen Contemporary locations. Recently, the city has undergone something of an artistic renaissance.

Arts District

Downtown LA has become a magnet for artists and their muses. This funky neighborhood, once derelict, now draws talent seeking the energy that the Arts District throws off.

The Arts District is best explored with an insider, who can navigate hidden corners.  Cindy Schwarzstein, founder of Cartwheel Art, gives tours of the neighborhood she calls home, offering access to arts co-ops, museums and galleries to meet artists and curators. Recently, I joined her for a private peek inside Hauser Wirth & Schimmel at the woman-only arts show featuring installation pieces housed within early 20th century industrial buildings.

Galleries are joined by well-curated shops, such as Guerilla Atelier, where fashion world insider Carl Louisville has curated a store brimming with sartorial treasures that attract rock-star status designers like John Galliano.

While exploring the neighborhood, pause for a locally brewed Angel City lager served from a vintage Airstream at Resident, where a couple’s yard has been transformed into one of the liveliest parties in town. Or, pop into the artsy tasting room at The Spirit Guild, a distillery founded by Miller Duvall, a California native whose family owns an orange ranch, to sample fruit-based gin and vodka.

Some of LA’s top restaurants also call the neighborhood home, including Bestia, helmed by husband and wife team Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis. Bestia delivers what may be the city’s finest dinner, as the menu weaves through California-sourced ingredients, such as site-baked bread, hand-rolled pasta and house-smoked everything from chicken liver to anchovies.

Book a guest room facing the Hollywood Hills for drop-dead views at The Line in Koreatown. This industrial-chic hotel is home to Pocketo, a boutique that sells handcrafted gifts, as well as a pair of celebrity chef’s Roy Choi restaurants, including a rooftop greenhouse called Commissary.

Venice

Venice has long been known for its street art, and it still captures the eye with psychedelic wall murals of Jim Morrison and Dogtown’s skateboard icons. But, something new has happened in the past few years along one of the main drags, Abbot Kinney. Collectors now scour galleries like Various Small Fires, where multimedia pieces are displayed indoors and out, and G2 Galleries, which focuses on high-end wildlife photography.

Some of LA’s top chefs have carved out turf here. Nyesha Arrington, a Top Chef-er, has made Leona a destination restaurant, thanks to her commitment to farm fresh ingredients. Nearby, the Rose serves yellowtail crudo, abundant organic salads, not to mention a very good cup of coffee.

Stay steps from the beach at the family-owned Erwin Hotel, where each floor celebrates the artistic history of the neighborhood with photographs of rock legends like Joni Mitchell, along with iconic Venice graffiti art. Head to the rooftop for a cocktail around sunset to watch the sun sink into the sea.

Beverly Hills

For a complete contrast, plan a day in Beverly Hills, where you will be surrounded by premium artwork. Staying at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, puts you in walking distance of the city’s best galleries, like Ace Gallery, with its museum-worthy collection of work by artists like Richard Serra and Julian Schnabel. A little ways down Wilshire sits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which holds more works than any other museum in the West. But you needn’t leave the hotel to soak in stunning art. The hotel’s signature restaurant CUT, designed by the Getty’s architect Richard Meier, displays John Baldessari conceptual work from Wolfgang Puck’s private collection.

LA’s art scene is no longer content to play the quiet stepsister to the flash of Hollywood movie studios. The city’s art world is finally having its moment. And, what an extraordinary one it is.