Los Angeles is often overlooked for its art museums, but it’s quickly becoming a top destination for art enthusiasts. The city is not just opening new art museums; it’s also expanding and enhancing the existing ones. For anyone who loves art, Los Angeles has a lot to offer.
Let’s dive into the six best art museums in Los Angeles:
1. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, is the oldest and best-known of Southern California’s art museums. For decades this has been the venue for popular national and international traveling exhibitions. It also has an impressive permanent collection spanning centuries and including a multitude of genres.
LACMA continually reinvents itself. Over the years, as its collection has grown, several new buildings have been added to the campus and an extensive outdoor space has been created that includes art installations, a highly regarded restaurant, a cafe, and lounge areas.
The museum’s most popular pieces don’t even need admission to see. Opposite the main entrance along Wilshire Boulevard is the Chris Burdens Urban Lights . Several rows of restored street lamps became an Instagram magnet. Also outdoors is the Levitated Mass , a 340-ton boulder placed over a walkway.
Within walking distance of the LACMA are the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, the Craft Contemporary and the Petersen Automotive Museum. This part of town offers a full day of excellent museum experiences.
LACMA is open every day except Wednesdays. Admission ranges from $10 to $25.
2. The Broad
Relatively new to the Los Angeles art scene is The Broad, and it has quickly become one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Philanthropists and avid art collectors Eli and Edyth Broad founded this museum to house their extensive personal collection of contemporary art. Only a small portion of their collection is on display at any one time, so repeat visits always bring new surprises.
While the exhibits rotate regularly, some of the most popular pieces remain in public view. Among them are Jeff Koonss Tulips , Robert Therriens Under The Table, and Andy Warhols Two Marilyns .
The Broad also owns not one, but two of the Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirror rooms, which are definitely worth getting there early to see (only a limited number of tickets are made available for them each day).
Surrounding The Broad are the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, so it would be easy to spend an entire day in this culturally significant part of town.
The Broad is open Tuesday through Sunday and is free. However, due to its popularity, reservations are recommended and can be made online.
3. Getty Center
Every visitor to Los Angeles should reserve a full day for The Getty. This institution, located on 720 acres, boasts stunning architecture, expansive city views, beautiful gardens, and world-class art, all free of charge.
The design of the space aims to encourage visitors to move easily between the indoor and outdoor areas. With lots of seating areas, it was also designed to allow visitors to enjoy the experience slowly and not feel rushed.
The physical size of the museum combined with the breadth of the collection allows the Getty to offer a dozen different exhibits at once. Current exhibits include a history of cameras, manuscripts from the Middle Ages, and pastel portraits from the 18th century.
First-time visitors should definitely start with an audio tour which is free. This tour provides a good overview of the museum.
A highlight of The Getty is the Central Garden, which is supposed to be a living piece of art. Follow the circular path to discover all parts of the garden, including several water fountains.
The Getty is open Tuesday through Sunday and does not charge admission. However, parking is $20 per vehicle.
4. The Getty Villa
Located in Malibu, California, the Getty Villa is a sister institution to the museum. However, the type of art and architecture found in the village is quite different. John Paul Getty wanted the property to resemble an ancient Roman country house and used the Italian Villa dei Papiri as a guide.
Surrounding the villa are four gardens that include over 300 species of plants. During Roman times, gardens like these would have been used for practical matters such as food preparation and medical treatment, as well as aesthetic purposes.
Within the villa is ancient art spanning 7,000 years, from the late Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. There are an estimated 44,000 items in the collection.
As with the museum, free guide-led tours are available that provide a deeper understanding of this fascinating place.
The Getty Villa is open Wednesday through Sunday. Entry to the villa is free, but a timed entry reservation is required and must be booked online several days in advance. Parking is $20 per vehicle.
5. Marciano Art Foundation
The Marciano Art Foundation is a newcomer to the Los Angeles art museum scene, having opened in 2017. Maurice and Paul Marciano, like The Broad, decided to open a museum to share their extensive private collection of modern art with the public. They purchased the Masonic Temple, an iconic site in the heart of Los Angeles, and completely redesigned it with the aim of displaying art, often large installations.
The first floor of the museum was formerly the Masonic Temple theater and as such offers a cavernous space for the display of great works. Recently, internationally recognized artist and activist Ai Weiwei exhibited his newest piece, Life Cycle . Currently, a work by Donna Huanca, Obsidian Ladder , is on display and features painted female models who move through the work over the course of several hours. This work can only be seen on Saturdays.
Any visitor to Marciano should head upstairs to see Yayoi Kusamas With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever. In the center of the room are several huge tulips in vases, while red dots cover the floor and walls.
The Marciano Art Foundation does not charge admission, but reservations are highly recommended and can be made online.
6. Norton Simon Museum
Located in Pasadena, California adjacent to Los Angeles is the Norton Simon Museum. In 1974, a massive private collection owned by the Simon family was combined with artwork from the former Pasadena Art Institute, resulting in a staggering 12,000 pieces of art, many from the world’s most famous artists.
The museum focuses on European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Among the best-known pieces are paintings by Rembrandt, van Gogh, Manet, and Goya, as well as sculptures by Degas. The museum has a large gallery with the best-known art from its permanent collection.
In addition to rotating art from the permanent collection, Norton Simon also offers some special exhibitions. Currently, these include Belle Poque paintings from Paris and abstract photography.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday. Admission ranges from $12 to $15, and children, students, and active military personnel can enter for free.
This is certainly not a complete list of Los Angeles art museums, but these are hands down the best. Among these institutions, there is something from every imaginable genre of art. Art-loving visitors to the city should definitely make time to see one or more of these museums.