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Known for everything from surf culture, to iconic entertainment venues, Los Angeles art galleries and museums are equally iconic.
6 min read
November 17, 2022
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Los Angeles is known for everything from movie stars, to the surf culture, to iconic entertainment venues. With so much history to celebrate and dozens of artistic styles, it is no wonder Los Angeles contains 100-plus different museums and art galleries. Since there are numerous options, it can be easy for an art aficionado or tourist to get lost in the vast number of opportunities, and it is very hard to decide which spots to visit during one day, or even a week, in L.A. While the big-name museums are definitely worth seeing, it can be difficult to determine where to go next to truly understand the local culture. But this list of undeniable gems will help get you out the door and on your way to discovering the best Los Angeles art galleries and museums.
Location: 221 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
As one of L.A.’s iconic architectures, The Broad is one of the most eye-catching structures in the region. Yet, it’s not just the exterior that makes this Los Angeles art gallery stand out. Unlike many of the museums throughout the state, The Broad offers free admission year-round, making the art gallery highly accessible. If the lack of fees is not enough to entice you, the 2,000-plus works of art that call The Broad home just might. Boasting a wide rotation of temporary exhibitions across two floors and specializing in postwar and contemporary styles, this gallery has one of the most prominent collections of its kind in the world. Still not convinced? Talk to one of the 2.5 million visitors who have had the privilege of seeing the works of Roy Lichtenstein, Takashi Murakami, and Chuck Close in person; or search for the countless social media posts featuring The Broad’s famed infinity mirror rooms for a better idea of what’s in store.
Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles
As the first destination in L.A. to solely focus on photographic culture, the Annenberg Space for Photography hosts dozens of renowned and up-and-coming California photographers specializing in both print and digital photography. The gallery also exhibits the works of local and international photographers, who’ve been known to change the world one photo at a time. Along with offering free admission, the gallery offers photography-oriented series — including workshops, lectures, and master classes — as well as a gift shop with photographs and photography-themed merchandise.
Location: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Visit the most famous Ice Age fossil excavation location in the world without leaving Los Angeles. Fossils of mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and many other species — some of which were 40,000 years old — have been found in the asphalt deposits here. This Los Angeles museum offers the rare opportunity to peek into the region’s ancient history, see tar pits for yourself, and take in the enormity of creatures that once walked the same land as the locals and tourists today.
Location: 216 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale
The Museum of Neon Art, also known as MONA, is a unique Los Angeles museum full of lights and art. Neon clock collections, vintage neon signage, restored works from the Hollywood and Los Angeles regions, and photographs of classic local neon signs – this museum is unlike any other in the state. Interested in getting closer to the neon? Take one of the museum’s classes to learn the art of making your very own glowing sign. And visit the gift shop to take home your own mini neon souvenir!
Location: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
The fame of the Getty Center goes way beyond L.A. It not only is considered one of the best art museums in California, but in the country as a whole. Committed to preserving, conserving, and interpreting the world’s art to educate and excite viewers, The Getty is a classic L.A. landmark and a must-see for locals and visitors alike. The gallery specializes in European paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography that contribute to a new appreciation for the art of the world.
Location: 5814 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
What was previously called the Craft and Folk Art Museum is now Craft Contemporary; however, the destination is still committed to folk art and to the idea that craft has the power to educate, captivate, and empower those who view and create it. As one of the top Los Angeles art galleries, Craft Contemporary is dedicated to providing insight into the cultural contributions of folk art and to spark creativity through arts and crafts, so it offers workshops along with fascinating exhibits. This unique gallery hosts exhibitions highlighting furniture, tattoo art, textiles, geodesic dome architecture, and all other forms of human creation — making it an experience you can only have in Los Angeles.
Location: 411 West Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena
Known worldwide for being one of the most exquisite private art collections ever attained, the Norton Simon Museum is another legendary stop on any Los Angeles art tour. While the entire permanent collection contains 12,000 objects from Europe and Asia, only 1,000 are on display at any given time, so it is worth visiting every time you are in the city.
Location: 17985 E Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades
While somewhat less popular than The Getty, the Getty Villa remains one of the top art galleries in Los Angeles. With a wide selection of Greek and Roman art within a beautifully crafted, Roman-inspired villa, the Getty Villa will always be considered one of the best attractions in Los Angeles. The collection spans 7,000 years and occupies two floors of gallery space, while the property offers maintained gardens, a gift shop, and an eatery.
Location: 900 West Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles
With over 35 million specimens and artifacts spanning over 4.5 billion years, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) is the largest natural and history museum in the western United States. At NHM you’ll be able to go back 65 million years while meeting the dueling dinos, enjoy beautiful snapshots of nature at the African and American diorama hall, and understand how L.A. came to be through the Becoming Los Angeles exhibition. This and much more await you at one of the top museums in SoCal.
Location: 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) takes a modern look at the ever-changing definition of art and is the only artist-founded museum in Los Angeles. The museum has amassed nearly 7,000 objects and is constantly changing its exhibitions to feature historically significant and diverse works. Visit all three of the MOCA venues throughout L.A. for a comprehensive look at art that has been created since 1940 in all forms. Admiring contemporary art at MOCA is considered one of the best free things to do in Los Angeles – what are you waiting for?
Location: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) sits in the heart of L.A. and is best known for the 202 street lamps comprising the Urban Light exhibit, which sits at the entrance to the building. LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, covering 6,000 years of artistic exploration and containing 140,000 objects. The gallery aims to express multiple viewpoints and to illuminate the various art histories, cultural heritage, and diverse population that make Los Angeles a coveted destination.
Looking for other galleries throughout the state? Start with the Top Art Galleries in San Francisco.
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