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7 L.A. art exhibitions and events to look forward to in 2020

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

Some of our favorite exhibitions this year haven’t come down from their gallery walls yet (see: Shirin Neshat, Julie Mehretu, Betye Saar and “With Pleasure”). But we’re ready to turn our attention to what’s next: 2020 is already shaping up to be an exciting year among L.A.’s museum world thanks to some major openings and expansions (or in the case of MOCA, permanent free admission), art fairs and biennials, and promising retrospectives. Here are the seven things to look out for in 2020.

“Oscar Oiwa: Dreams of a Sleeping World”
USC Pacific Asia Museum, Jan 10–Apr 26

Using nothing more than a Sharpie (OK, actually about 120 of them), Oiwa and his four assistants will draw dreamy illustrations onto the side of an inflated, white nylon dome at Pasadena’s USC Pacific Asia Museum over the course of about two weeks. Once on display, visitors will be able to step inside and stare up at the dome from the comfort of a bed in the middle.

“Nicolas Party”
Hauser & Wirth, Feb 13–Apr 12

The fast-rising New York-via-Switzerland artist will transform Hauser & Wirth’s stark white south gallery into a pastel wonderland of boldly hued landscapes, portraits and still lifes in his L.A. solo debut.

Frieze Los Angeles
Paramount Studios, Feb 14–16

All eyes—and wallets—in the art world were on Los Angeles when the New York fair Frieze made its debut here in 2019. But forget about the gallery pop-ups that have collectors buzzing: We’re more excited to once again roam a surreal backlot transformed by 16 site-specific installations when Frieze returns in February. And new this year, the Focus L.A. section of the more traditional art fair portion will provide a platform for 13 emerging galleries.

Yoshitomo Nara, I WANT TO SEE THE BRIGHT LIGHTS TONIGHT, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 78 3/4 × 76 3/4 in. (200 × 194.9 cm), © YOSHITOMO NARA 2017
Photograph: Courtesy the artist

“Yoshitomo Nara”
LACMA, Apr 5–Aug 2

LACMA is assembling 30 years of works from the wildly popular Japanese artist (known for canvases of fiendish, wide-eyed children and animals) and examining them through the lens of his longtime passion for music. Expect to see Nara’s collection of album covers and a recreation of his studio alongside drawings, paintings, ceramics and sculptures—including a 26-foot painted bronze piece along Wilshire Boulevard. And lest you think LACMA is slowing down as it gears up for construction on its eastern campus, look out for exhibitions on the relationship between modern Scandiniavian design and the U.S. (fall 2020) as well as the reimagined return of the museum’s modern collection (fall 2020).

“A Garden of Words: The Calligraphy of Liu Fang Yuan”
Huntington Library, May 30, 2020–Jan 4, 2021

Yes, we’re looking forward to this first edition in an ongoing rotation of works from contemporary ink artists. But this exhibition also marks the grand opening of a new gallery in the Huntington’s Chinese Garden, as well as the final phase of a massive project that’ll see the classical-style garden triple in size and add elements like a stream-side cafe and a hilltop viewing pavilion.

“Made in L.A.”
Hammer Museum + Huntington Library, June 7–Aug 30

The Hammer Museum’s excellent, ongoing series of biennial exhibitions ups the ante each year with its spotlight on emerging and under-recognized L.A. artists, and we expect the upcoming fifth edition to be no exception. And for those Eastsiders scared of venturing too close to the 405, this year the Hammer is partnering with the Huntington Library to present a selection of works at the San Marino institution.

“Hayao Miyazaki”
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, 2020

Well this feels like a bit of déjà vu: We had this exhibition on our forward-looking list last year, when the long-awaited Academy Museum was still pegged to open in 2019. That’s since been pushed back to sometime in 2020—but we’re still just as eagerly awaiting the Miracle Mile institution’s inaugural exhibition: a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective. The still-untitled exhibition will delve into 11 films from the Studio Ghibli animator and director through projections, spatial installations, concept sketches, storyboards, layouts and production cels (and, of course, exclusive merch).

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