When people think of LA, the first thing that comes to mind tends not to be our thriving arts scene. For better or worse our reputation as Hollywood’s playground precedes us and more often than not visitors and locals alike give LA’s cultural scene barely a passing glance. For shame, I say! With all that we’ve got going on, LA is finally making a splash on the international art stage – Gustavo Dudamel and his wild hair, our philanthropic denizens like the Broads and the Annenberg family, Placido Domingo over at LA Opera, and a host of visual artists being celebrated everywhere from Basel to the Whitney Biennial are all making the world (and our locals) wake up to the creativity and culture that abounds in the city of angels. So here are LA’s haute 5 cultural institutions – get yourself some culture why don’t you.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is home to a pretty spectacular collection of works that range from Impressionist paintings to some wild modern installations and from African art to an enviable Costumes and Textiles collection. Their LA Times lights installation that runs along the Wilshire Blvd entrance to the museum has become a Los Angeles landmark and the Broad Contemporary Museum of Art, the exhibitions span on LACMA’s “campus” are sure to have something for every preference. Upcoming exhibitions include John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, and Olmec: Masterworks of Ancient Mexico.
LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles (323) 857-6000
Annenberg Space for Photography
The Annenberg family may very well be changing the cultural landscape of Los Angeles one “space” at a time. Their Space for Photography, a hyper-modern and technologically advance museum-slash-gallery in the CAA building in Century City, is just one of their latest projects. You can also head to the Annenberg Community Beach House for a day in the sun compliments of the head of the household (or the Trust, but who’s counting). The Space for Photography is a welcomed (and free!) celebration of photography and the technology behind it. Their exhibits tend to be documentary-like from their current exhibit (a collaborative effort with National Geographic magazine) Water: Our Thirsty World to their first exhibit, which opened a year ago, called Los Angeles: Perspectives of Eleven LA Photographers.
Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles (213) 403-3000
Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl
Arguably the crown jewel of LA’s cultural scene is this Frank-Gehry-designed architectural masterpiece in downtown LA. The undulating silver structure harbors an acoustically perfect interior made of curved light colored woods and seating that surrounds the stage on all sides. The home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Disney Hall is the kind of place that makes you want to stand up a little straighter and tighten your tie – its elegant but not stuffy and within its walls, you’re able to witness some incredibly beautiful sounds coming from the instruments of the LA Phil or any of the various guest artists that come through annually. From French electronic band M83 to jazz legend Sonny Rollins, Disney Hall is perfect – beautiful on the inside and the outside.
The summer home of the LA Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl, is likewise a beacon of LA’s music scene from KCRW’s annual World Music Festival (held every summer at the Bowl) to bands like Vampire Weekend, Flight of the Conchords, and Sting performing alongside the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, it’s hard to find a better place to spend a summer evening than the Hollywood Bowl.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 S. Grand Ave. in Downtown LA (323) 850-2000
Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Ave in Hollywood (323) 436-2827
The Broad Stage
The Broads, that’s Eli and Edythe, have done Santa Monica a huge favor by building the Broad Stage on their turf. With programming that spans from alternative to classical, the performance space is an intimate, modern venue to see acts that range from tap-dancer-extraordinaire Savion Glover to Broadway star Kelli O’Hara to the widely lauded puppet show Basil Twist’s Petrushka. In only two seasons, the Broad Stage has secured a place for itself in the cultural makeup of Los Angeles where classical pianists are welcomed alongside a solo performance from every opera-lovers favorite “barihunk,” Nathan Gunn. Because Santa Monica is more than just the beach, the Promenade, and tourists.
The Broad Stage is located at 1310 11th Street in Santa Monica (310) 434-3200
Theatre in LA can often play a secondary role to that other actor-based-industry we hold so dear, but that doesn’t mean our stage actors don’t give us a run for our money! While Center Theatre Group runs an impressive ship over at the Music Center, the haute center of theatre in LA is surely the Geffen Playhouse. On an otherwise entirely unassuming street in Westwood (damn college kids running around), the Geffen Playhouse draws some of the stage’s (and film’s) best actors to perform critically acclaimed shows, world premieres, and playwright debuts. From May 11, catch Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore or lament the fact that you missed seeing the hysterical Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas. Put plainly, the Geffen Playhouse may be small, but it packs a punch – this is theatre for stage-novices and old hands all at once.
The Geffen Playhouse is located at 10886 Le Conte Ave in Westwood (310) 208-5454