Los Angeles is much more than Hollywood glitz and glamour. In fact, it is a haven to many of the world’s greatest paintings and sculptures. Some of the most famous masterpieces are housed within its 105 museums. The city’s vast urban and suburban sprawl showcases a rich and diverse cultural arts scene encased in inventive architecture and sculptured landscape.
It is difficult to choose amid the breadth of museums exhibiting the world masters in the city’s explosive arts arena. Here are five top museums—which barely comb the surface.
Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), composed of nine buildings located on 20 acres, is the largest encyclopedia art museum in the Western United States, with 150,000 art pieces spanning prehistoric to the present—virtually the entire history of art. One of the most extensive Korean art collections outside of Korea is showcased here. Some of the world’s finest collection of Islamic ceramics and textiles is also housed here, along with a Japanese art pavilion touting stunning scrolls, screens, and porcelains. The museum even contains an enormous costume and textile collection stemming from 100 B.C.
Attracting some one million visitors yearly, LACMA is undergoing major renovation and expansion in a 10-year program entitled Transformation.
From March 3rd to June 2nd, 2013, a special exhibition of Ming Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum will include ten artworks of early Ming Dynasty court paintings executed in 15th and early 16th centuries in the Forbidden City.
The 110-acre Getty Center is perched above the foothills of Santa Monica Mountains. A modernistic creation of architect Richard Meier, the Center highlights both nature and culture with sweeping views of the city and Pacific Ocean.
A first-time appearance of European great artists will be presented here. Johannes Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” is on view February 16 to March 31 on loan from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. From March 5th to June 9th, Dutch artist, court painter, and diplomat, Peter Paul Ruebens’ work and his fascination with Asia will be presented in “Looking East: Rubens’ Encounter with Asia”.
LA’s smaller, more specialized museums are equally impressive —particularly Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum, one of the few art venues in the United States dedicated exclusively to arts and culture of Asia and Pacific Island. Established in 1971, the museum has amassed more than 15,000 objects, spanning more than 4,000 years. The building itself was built in 1924 and models a Northern Chinese imperial-style palace. The new Korean Gallery just opened in October.
Located in San Marino, next door to Pasadena, sits The Huntington Library, Art Collections, & Botanical Gardens with its newly renovated European gallery of 18th and 19th-century British and French art. Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy and Lawrence’s Pinkie” are on view here. This historic library is undergoing major renovations until fall of 2013. On display is some of the finest European art in the country. Such world treasures as one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, the earliest manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and rare early editions of William Shakespeare’s work are housed here.
Most impressive, though, are more than a dozen gardens covering 120 acres of the 207 acres, including the spectacular Desert, Japanese, and Rose Gardens.
The Chinese Garden is the newest addition. I sauntered through the Desert Garden, surrounded by an endless array of massive succulents creating clusters of spiny sculptures.
The Norton Simon Museum, one of my favorite venues in Pasadena and a 30-minute ride from Downtown LA, has an astounding private collection of 12,000 objects of art from Renaissance to 20th century. There is also a separate collection of South Asian art spanning 2,000 years. I enjoyed sitting at the outdoor café and sculpture garden with its Japanese-style pond.
Why do we continue to exhibit works of centuries past? According to Norton Simon, “It is a place to respect man’s creativity and a sense of continuity with the past, a place to give us a feeling of the dignity of man and to help strive towards our own creativity and fulfillment.”
Beverly Mann has been a feature, arts, and travel writer in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 28 years. She has received numerous accolades in the fields of travel writing, education, and international public relations, including a Bay Area Travel Writers Award of Excellence in Newspaper Travel Writing; www.beverlymann.com
Discover the Arts in LA just kicked off on January 31. Over the next three months, some 50 cultural visual and performing institutions throughout Los Angeles will offer discounted prices to visitors and residents.
For general information on Los Angeles museums and cultural happenings, go to:
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