Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Courtesy LACMA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA

Recommended: See Top 10 works at LACMA

While LACMA's collections have long been the most impressive in the city, the 20-acre complex of buildings in which they've been housed has been quite the reverse. A bewildering jumble of architectural styles blighted further still by abysmally poor signage, they never really did the artworks justice.

At last, though, things have improved. Funding difficulties and public outrage forced the museum to abandon Rem Koolhaas's original plans to rebuild almost the entire complex from scratch in 2002. However, Renzo Piano's subsequent blueprint for a less dramatic and less expensive redevelopment of the museum did get the go-ahead. The aptly named Transformation is still a work in progress, but the museum is already a lot more visitor-friendly (attendance increased from 600,000 in 2005 to nearly 1,000,000 in 2011).

It all starts with the entrance: the BP Grand Entrance Pavilion gives the museum a proper focal point. The entrance includes the installation of Chris Burden's Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around LA, restored to working order.

The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (widely known as BCAM), funded by LA philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, is home to a dazzling selection of modern work. Spread over three floors, the selection of pieces on display is strong on American artists—there's a very impressive Richard Serra piece on the first floor; Cindy Sherman and Jenny Holzer are among the artists represented on the second floor; and the third floor, enlightened by a glass ceiling, holds classic pieces by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and local artist Ed Ruscha.

The Ahmanson Building has also been spruced up as part of the renovation work, and the collections reorganized. The modern collection on the ground floor holds works by the likes of Picasso, Mondrian, Klee and Kandinsky; upstairs, the Greek and Roman art collections are kept in a space that benefits from huge picture windows and, thus, lots of natural light. The American art collection lives on the second floor of the Art of the Americas building, where you'll also find the Latin American collection.

Despite all this activity, work is far from complete. In addition to the newest building, the 45,000-square-foot Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, which  houses temporary exhibitions, phase two of the transformation calls for the renovation of LACMA West, housed in the old May Co department store buiding at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, but underused over the last few years.

Phase three provisionally called for the renovation of the galleries untouched by phases one and two, which at present contain European art (including Impressionist and post-Impressionist pieces by the likes of Cezanne, Gauguin and Degas), a world-renowned collection of Islamic art, plenty of pieces from Africa and, in the Pavilion for Japanese Art, all manner of delightful pieces from the Far East. The precise plans for phase three have yet to be finalized and may require the temporary closure of some galleries—call ahead if your interest is limited to a particular area.

The permanent collections are supplemented by some excellent temporary shows and a very strong program of events, among them film screenings and plenty of free music. Full details of all events, including the variety of daily tours, are available on the museum's website.

Venue name: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles
Opening hours: Mon-Tues, Thur 11am–5 pm; Fri 11 am–8 pm; Sat-Sun 10am–7 pm; Sun 10 am–7 pm; closed Wed
Price: General admission $15; seniors and students $10; 17 and under free. Free after 3pm for LA county residents Mon-Fri. Free on the second Tue of each month. Self park $10 (free after 7pm).
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  • Abstract Until Sunday May 7 2017
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Tania [Polaroidchick]

This is a beautiful space, inside and outside, where you can also appreciate art. If visiting LA, you must go at least once and if you live in LA, go more than once in a while, because they have many things going on, like jazz on Fridays. So, definitely, go and explore, it is worth it! 

Erick R

LACMA is the center-piece to a very vibrant LA art museum scene.  They have had the best art exhibitions come through in the past five years and boasts the toughest ticket in town with the 'Rain Room.'


an absolute must see attraction. Had 2 of the best days of my trip at this incredible space.

Seth Kelley

LACMA is bae. The Gehry exhibition alone is worth checking out—you can see many of his original sketches, observe how his architecture changes as he aged, and learn about his love affair with Los Angeles. Also, if you need a new Tinder pic, those lamps have ya covered!

Stephanie C

LACMA has such a wide range of art that's really interesting to see. Last time I visited, the "Levitated Mass" and "Metropolis II," along with their more traditional exhibits, highlighted how there's something for everyone. Plus with the that line up outside food trucks and the La Brea Tar Pits make it the perfect place to also grab some food and picnic! 

Jakob N. Layman

LACMA was one of the first museums I visited when I moved to Los Angeles three years ago and I was instantly blown away. First off, the grounds are beautiful. The museum has a really gorgeous design and the lawn is perfect for picnics during their jazz nights. If we're being honest though, and that is the point, the permanent collections aren't a plethora of inspirational works. However, the special exhibits are consistently fantastic and almost always worth the extra price of admission. 

thomas p

Calder Mobile Sculptures. If you ever wondered why Calder is so popular you can view for yourself the most amazing mobiles ever constructed, many from the Calder Foundation, meaning this is a RARE opportunity to see why Calder is in a class all by himself. His Exhibit is more astonishing than the more highly touted Van Gogh-Kandinsky Exhibition. DO NOT MISS. A child could be inspired to become the next Calder...

Thomas Pleasure

Kirsten H

LACMA is great for toddlers and older kids. Loads of space to run around, a couple of touching friendly outdoor sculptures, amazing coffee and high-end ice cream. Plus there's a kids art room, where kids can work with all different supplies, and have endless pieces of paper.


All Lacma music events are great! The Jazz (and all other music events) start on time, there is one break and they play for another area. Always amazing artists. The event is free, there is food sold in the cafe or sandwiches and wine sold by the lawn. The lawn is paced with happy, beautiful folks enjoying picnics with friends, family, babies and dogs. Totally friendly and safe. You can park in the structure ($), or park in the street for free, but the spots fill quickly. My husband and I have been coming for years, we come in our scooter, bring a picnic and enjoy the sunset.