Is It Any Good?

L.A.’s Preeminent Art Museum just off Wilshire.

If you’re from Washington D.C. (like me), or New York or London, there’s nothing about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that’s going to make you forget how good you have it back home.

Still, LACMA puts a very proud foot forward. Los Angeles now claims to be the center of all that’s going on in the Art World, and for once, that claim is probably correct. LACMA sits at the center of a very vibrant museum district, with the Folk Art Museum across the street as well as the Petersen Auto Museum, with the George Page Museum on the same block.

LACMA used to be a lot smaller. A small cluster of buildings that housed a couple of visiting exhibits. It was also a maze. Literally, you needed a Sherpa and a guide to wander from one end of the Museum to the other.

Well, things have changed more than a little bit. The complex has expanded into more buildings. There was a Robinson’s May (Department Store) on the same block, and LACMA took it over. The collection has expanded, and the visiting shows are better than ever.

The Basic Directory this is (but snag the iPhone App to keep a map with you):

  1. Pavilion for Japanese Art
  2. Bing Center (Auditorium, Theater and Café)
  3. Art of the Americas Building (with American and Latin American Art)
  4. Hammer Building (Children’s Art, Korean Art, Art of the Ancient World)
  5. Ahmanson Building (Art of the Pacific, Modern Art, German Expressionism, European Art, Islamic Art, South and Southeast Asian Art)
  6. BP Grand Entrance (ignore the name, this is where the Jazz Concerts Happen, and Ray’s and Stark Bar)
  7. Broad Contemporary Art Museum
  8. Resnick Pavilion (where the Special Exhibits happen)
  9. LACMA West (the old Robinson’s May Building, which is still undergoing renovation).

iPhone 5S Test Shot 2

Click on the picture to visit our Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Photo Gallery!

That being said, LACMA still a maze. If you have a favorite type of art (like say, Impressionism in my case) they’re not going to have a lot of what you love, and you really have to work to find it. But simply wandering around, looking around, and getting lost isn’t the worst way to spend a day. And if you get hungry, you don’t have to wander off campus with the Stark Bar, Coffee+Milk and Ray’s Restaurant right there for your dining and drinking pleasure.

LACMA is about more than Art, believe it or not. The Complex has put together a really good film program, showing some newer, artier, edgier movies (some bound for the theaters), along with some classics. Either way, it’s a nice theater, and a great place to hang out afterward.

On top of that, in Summer Days, there are regular Jazz Concerts in the BP Grand Entrance (sigh – bad timing on the name). You don’t know the bands (mostly local), but the music will be all right, and the atmosphere is just fantastic. Kicking back with a Sangria, with a mildly overpriced Taco in your hand, listening to Jazz Music on a beautiful day, is about as un-L.A. as it gets.

LACMA may not be the center of the L.A. Art Scene, but it is worth more than a couple visits during your stop in Southern California.

Walter De Maria: The 2000 Sculpture at LACMA.

Click on the picture to visit our Walter De Maria: The 2000 Sculpture Photo Gallery!

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: You’re going to get turned around in the LACMA Complex, and that’s okay. Think of it as a way to discover new art. There is an App for LACMA, with a broad, general map of the complex, just not of individual buildings. I’d recommend downloading it if you have an iPhone.

Also (And this applies to all Museums now, not just LACMA), if you have a Smart Phone, keeping Wikipedia handily is a damn good idea. Why? Because at lot of the Art, especially from the Middle Ages, are basically pop culture references of their time. Stories like the one of Queen Mab were commonplace in the 1600s whereas today they’re not. If the painting in front of you is making reference to a story you’re not sure about, use Wikipedia to clear things up and fill in the gaps of your otherwise mediocre classical education.

Food options also include the occasional visit by L.A.’s vibrant Food Truck scene, out front on Wilshire.

Also, I’d recommend going with a LACMA Member if at all possible. It makes your day SOOOO much easier.

UPDATE: March 30, 2013: Believe it or not (this will fall into the duh! Category) a can of Coke at LACMA costs $3.25, where by just crossing the street you can whop off a $1.25 by hitting one of the food trucks…which are a still expensive $2 bucks.

As my Dad would invariably say, by staying home you can drive that price down into the .27 to .50 cent range.


PARKING: Fantastically easy, but pricey. LACMA has a massive underground Garage that you can roll into for Ten Bucks (as a Member). I’d recommend it no matter the price because it is underground, and your car won’t bake as you’re touring the classics. But there is street parking available nearby.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90036
(323) 857-6000

Mon-Tue, Thu: 12–8pm
Wed: Closed
Fri: 12–9pm
Sat-Sun: 11am–8pm