If the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “Southern California” is Disneyland, you’re likely not alone. SoCal is well known for the very popular theme parks that make it a destination for young and old alike. But don’t let the art lover in you miss out on your next trip to the Golden State – Los Angeles is home to some of the most impressive and well-known art collections anywhere.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Considered the largest art museum in the western United States, LACMA attracts almost a million visitors annually to view its holdings of more than 100,000 works in 21 different collections that focus on art from all areas of the globe, plus contemporary art, decorative art, modern art, photography and more. You’ll find works by such artists as Rembrandt, Paul Cezanne, Mary Cassat, Paul Gaugin, Claude Money, and George Bellows, to name a few. The museum also hosts many special exhibits throughout the year, a current and upcoming selection of which include Stanley Kubrick, Henri Matisse, and James Turrell.
The museum campus consists of nine buildings that house the not only the art, but an auditorium, a theater, a café and a bar. Also on the campus, you’ll find several permanent art installations, including the well-known Urban Light, a sculpture by Chris Burden made of 202 antique cast-iron street lights from various cities in and around the Los Angeles are. The street lights are functional and turn on in the evening, powered by solar panels. Another is Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer, a 340-ton boulder that sits upon a 456-foot long trench that gradually deepens to 15 feet, allowing visitors to walk under and around the massive rock.
One of two branches of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center specializes in pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and 19th– and 20th-century American and European photographs. It’s one of the most visited museums in the U.S., with 1.3 million visitors each year, and features paintings such as Irises by Vincent Van Gogh, Arii Matamoe by Paul Gauguin, and Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo. The building itself, designed by architect Richard Meier, is a work of art, and it’s completed with outdoor sculptures, terraces and gardens, including the 134,000 square-foot Central Garden, which contains over 500 plant varieties. Multiple tours and talks are available for visitors, and the museum offers a full calendar of lectures, films, concerts and festivals. And don’t forget your camera, because the views of L.A. from the Getty Center are some of the best you’ll find.
This 64-acre museum complex, which houses 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Estruscan antiquities dating from 6500 B.C. to 400 A.D., sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on property adjacent to the former home of oil tycoon and founder J. Paul Getty. The Villa was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri in Herculenium near Pompeii and consists of 29 galleries on 2 levels, as well as an outdoor theater and gardens. Like the Getty Center, it’s as much about the architecture as the art collection; the site was created to give one the sense of being at an archeological dig. And also like the Getty Center, the views are fantastic – this time, however, you are looking out to the Pacific Ocean.
The Norton Simon Museum
While the Norton Simon Museum may be smaller that the LACMA and the Getty Center, its collection is certainly just as impressive and is highly regarded world-wide. The Upper Level of the museum houses European and American Art from the 14th to the 20th century, and contains works such as Madonna and Child with Book by Raphael, Portrait of a Boy by Rembrandt, Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gogh, and The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil, by Claude Monet. Other artists include Matisse, Renoir, Manet, Cezanne and over 100 works by Edgar Degas. Also notable are 45 works by Pablo Picasso, about a dozen of which are on display at any given time.
The museum’s Lower Level is home to an extensive Asian Art collection, representing India, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand and other South and Southeast Asian countries. Several outdoor art displays round out the museum’s offerings, including the Rodin collection at the front of the museum, which includes one of 12 copies of Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, as well as several of his studies used in creating the six-figure sculpture.
This is a guest post by Alicia Russo who works for CityPASS. Hitting the museums is great, but if you’re in the area make sure you also take time to visit Disneyland Resort and the other theme parks. You can get discounted admission on a few of them with the Southern California CityPASS.