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What to See at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

View some of the world's most famous paintings, ancient objects, and public installations at the West Coast's largest art museum

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Time and geography have no limits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where galleries will transport you from the cinemas of 19th-century Paris to modern-day runways of New York Fashion Week in a matter of minutes. As the largest art museum in the western United States, this Los Angeles establishment is a space for creativity and cultural dialogue. It’s also home to more than 140,000 objects that span centuries and hail from every continent on the planet.

LACMA’s 20-acre campus is situated on Los Angeles’ Museum Row, a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that includes the neighboring La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automotive Museum, and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. With a permanent collection that includes works by such greats as Picasso and Kunisada and a reputation for exhibiting installations by cutting edge  artists like Ai Weiwei and Barbara Kruger, it deserves a spot on any art lover’s L.A. itinerary. Here’s what to expect while exploring this cultural institution.

Must-See Exhibits at LACMA

World-famous works of art are a highlight of the LACMA experience. Art lovers can embark on a treasure hunt through Broad Contemporary Art Museum’s modern art galleries, tracking down favorites like Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can or Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman with Handkerchief. The museum’s holdings help paint a picture of the diverse artistic landscape throughout history, from the Latin American Modernism of Diego Rivera in the renowned Flower Day (Día de Flores) to Roy Lichtenstein’s bold pop art in works like Cold Shoulder. At every turn, there’s a familiar work to examine—Degas’ Dancers, Rivera’s Portrait of Frida Kahlo, and the vibrant vistas of David Hockney’s Mulholland Drive.

But the art at LACMA isn’t limited to color on canvas. Discover sculptures from French artists like Henry Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, ancient Aztec ceramics, and costumes and textiles from around the world. Get lost in the complex curves of Richard Serra’s 70-foot-long Band, a winding ribbon of weatherproof steel. Or explore Chris Burden’s miniature city, a 10-by-20-foot kinetic sculpture modeled after a modern urban landscape—much like Los Angeles itself. Metropolis II engages the visual and auditory senses with 200 downsized skyscrapers and buildings, 18 roadways, and the electric buzz of more than 1,100 custom-made cars, trains and trolleys speeding on an endless loop.

Check the schedule for the latest rotating and touring exhibitions arriving at LACMA. Whether it’s a limited viewing of the Obama portraits or the first West Coast case study of Lee Alexander McQueen’s influences and impact on the fashion landscape, these special exhibitions are not to be missed.

Experience LACMA for Free

The iconic Urban Light exhibit greets visitors at the museum’s front gates—and best of all, it’s free to see. The 202 restored antique streetlamps illuminate Wilshire Boulevard from dusk till dawn. (Pro tip: Show up just before sunrise to see the lights switch off and snap your pics sans crowds.)

Another public art installation garnered widespread attention in 2012, when one of largest megaliths moved since ancient times was transported to LACMA across four California counties. You don’t need a museum ticket to walk beneath Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass, a 340-ton boulder that sits above a 456-foot concrete pathway near the Sixth Street pedestrian gate.

From April to November, L.A. jazz legends serenade crowds out on the Smidt Welcome Plaza. Pack a picnic for Jazz at LACMA, a free concert series held every Friday evening—no reservations required.

LACMA Transformation

The Bing Theater and the aging Ahmanson, Hammer, and Art of the Americas buildings were demolished in 2020, paving the way for a new vision: the David Geffen Galleries. Upon its anticipated opening in 2024, the sweeping 347,500-square-foot building designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Peter Zumthor will house the museum’s permanent collection.

Though much of the eastern half of the campus is closed for the duration of the project, two Renzo Piano–designed buildings on the west side remain open to the public. Constructed of glass and stone, the Resnick Pavilion has slanted rooftop panels that flood the open-plan galleries with natural light. Just south, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) features high-ceilinged, column-free space to better showcase the genre’s sprawling installations and towering sculptures like Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Blue), part of the inaugural exhibition now on display at The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles.

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