With its diverse collection of museums, Los Angeles has grown into one of the world’s great cities for art lovers. From the dramatically modern Getty Center high above West L.A. to The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, housed in a onetime police warehouse in downtown’s Little Tokyo, the city offers a unique assortment of places and ways to view unforgettable works.
Start with locations made possible by philanthropist J. Paul Getty, who created two remarkable—and free to the public (parking extra)—museums that are art pieces in themselves. At the Getty Center, snow-white travertine buildings designed by famed architect Richard Meier display works from Medieval-era illuminated manuscripts to photographic masterpieces. The lush gardens descending down adjacent hills offer some of the best views in L.A. In Pacific Palisades, just east of Malibu, Getty created another gem, the Getty Villa, a recreation of an ancient Roman country house showcasing a world-renowned collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.
Along Wilshire Boulevard, LACMA (the popular acronym for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is a sprawling complex displaying everything from pre-Columbian works in the Art of the Americas Building to recent masterpieces at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Snap a shot of Chris Burden’s Urban Light, an outdoor assemblage of 202 vintage L.A. street lamps that has become one of the city’s most photographed sites, and walk under Michael Helzer’s Levitated Mass, a 340-ton granite boulder that’s dizzyingly suspended above an outdoor walkway.
UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) is another treasure trove of museums. Visit The Hammer for a remarkable collection of envelope-pushing art. The Fowler has a globally significant collection of historic and contemporary works from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas.
For an adventure that is custom-designed to be Instagram gold, visit the Museum of Illusions, where guests are not passive observers but instead become fully involved with the 3-D works of art. Inspired by current events, movies, and other streams of pop culture, the simulated experiences include stealing treasure from bloodthirsty dragons, walking on the edge of a skyscraper, and other heart-stopping endeavors.
Insider tip: Many of Los Angeles’ museums are free to the public, or have a free-admission policy one day a week. Check their sites before you go.