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LACMA: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Located right on Wilshire Boulevard and providing probably the largest input towards what is known as Los Angeles’ Museum Row, LACMA (or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – they don’t abbreviate these things for nothin’) is the largest art museum in the western United States.

You’ll find art in LACMA spanning from ancient times to the present, and with over 150,000 historical pieces alongside film, music and concert exhibits, there’s something for everyone. Let’s learn a little bit more about the museum – be sure to include this on your trip to museum row. Check out our posts on LACMA’s awesome neighbors, The La Brea Tar Pits and the Petersen Automotive Museum. They’re all located basically right on top of eachother – plan to visit all 3 on a super museum crawl!!

The Founding History & Architecture of LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was first established as a museum in 1961, but it had existed as a focused organization within the Natural History Museum or the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art long before this. Howard F. Ahmanson made the principal donation that made it possible for the new museum to be established with a focus on art and independent from its natural history counterpart. Numerous financial backers of the Natural History Museum quickly became interested in this new venture, Anna Bing Arnold and Bart Lytton were a few of the initial patrons to branch out from the Natural History Museum.

In 1965 LACMA was finally able to move out of its parents basement. LACMA finally came to life with a new complex on Wilshire Boulevard. This new location would be an independent, art-focused institution, and a great buzz was in the air among the art enthusiasts of Los Angeles. The local modernist William Pereira was comissioned to design the initial 3 buildings that would make up the complex. In 1986 the Robert O. Anderson building (currently the Art of the Americas Building) was built by the Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Architectural firm and became the 4th installment to the complex.  In 1988 The Pavilion for Japanese Art opened (pictured below.) Designed by Bruce Goff, this would be his last offering to the museum as he unfortunately passed away in 1982 before it was completed.


LACMA continues to expand its horizons even today with an entirely new building in the works that intends to transform the experience altogether and allow visitors to make connections with the art that they previously did not. The David Geffen galleries are expected to be completed by 2024, with a unique architectural design that has no start or beginning.

The David Geffen Gallery is still years in the making, but through the magic of Photoshop, or whatever, these images of the planned design are available for us all to take a look at. The building is designed to be flowing and will add spice to the entirety of Museum Row.
The David Geffen Gallery has been digitally included into this aerial shot of Museum Row in Los Angeles. The uniquely shaped building will connect parts of the row that previously did not. Can you spot the Petersen Automotive Museum in this photo?

Outdoor Exhibits at LACMA

A great thing about Museum Row, especially during COVID, is the fact that there is a great amount of things to see out in the open air, for free! We are all still waiting for museums to again open and allow the public, but in the meantime these outdoor exhibits are the perfect way to get yourself back into the swing of things.

This 25 foot, 7 inch tall, 4,446 pound bronze sculpture sits outside the LACMA. In the artist, Yoshitomo Nara’s words, “In Japanese, it’s called ‘Moriko’ or the child of the forest. Ever since I began to produce works in clay, … in the beginning, I was making large lumps, but then began to produce works that took the form of plants like a tannenbaum. ‘Miss Forest’ is the final version of that series. Amidst the process of the work being made, the image I envisioned was a thing that was connected to the earth, born from the soil of the earth, that grew into the sky… into outer space and thus communicated with the universe like an antenna. It is like a catalyst between the grand earth upon which we place our feet and the sky that our hands cannot reach. Instead of simply being an artwork, the work has that kind of presence. I think of Indigenous people who climb to high places in order to communicate with the sky and recite prayers. There is something similar to this that I feel exists inside of me. And I think that is why that piece was born.”
If you’ve got an Instagram, you might’ve already seen this place about a million times. Still, it’s an amazing piece of art and always open and available to the public who would like to check out LACMA from the outside, night or day.
This 340-ton boulder is another one of the exhibits open ot the public. You can find this monolith by strolling through the La Brea Tar Pits over the LACMAs side of the court. Surrounded by sand, Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass—a 456-foot-long concrete slot constructed on LACMA’s campus in 2012.

Surf City Tour’s Guide to Los Angeles Museums

Planning on visiting some museums here in Los Angeles? We’ve created a bit of a guide on some of the most popular and in our opinion coolest museums here in LA for all of our guests (and even those who might not be planning to take a tour with us) to take advantage of. Check out some other museums along Museum Row (right next to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures!!)

Guide to the Petersen Automotive Museum

The *NEW* Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Guide

Guide to The La Brea Tar Pits & George C. Page Museum