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Best Museums and Galleries in Los Angeles

Despite its long-standing reputation as a second-rate art capital after New York, Los Angeles easily vies for the top spot when it comes to its museum exhibitions and gallery shows.

The undisputed heavyweights are the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Getty Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

On the gallery front, the scene is no less colorful. Four major epicenters—Chinatown, Culver City, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood—boast hundreds of art spaces.

Museums

On a busy stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood, the UCLA Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood 310/443-7000 www.hammer.ucla.edu) is known for cutting-edge exhibitions with a special emphasis on "the art of our time," as they put it. The Hammer also has an extensive library dedicated to the study of video art.

In a modernist compound of rough-hewn Italian travertine on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Richard Meier-designed Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles 310/440-7300 www.getty.edu) has fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as an extensive garden designed by Robert Irwin. The permanent collection includes works from the 19th century to the present.

Also, don't miss the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades 310/440-7300 www.getty.edu) in Pacific Palisades for Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.

Claiming the crown of the largest art museum in the western United States, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile 323/857-6000 www.lacma.org) is a complex of seven buildings with more than 100,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present.

Two of the newest attractions, both designed by Renzo Piano are the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which features work by Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Robert Rauschenberg, and many other top names, and the Resnick Pavilion for special exhibitions. LACMA may be the biggest museum in the West, but the Museum of Contemporary Art is certainly in the running in the best category, and is the place to go to see blockbuster exhibits. It has three buildings: MOCA Grand Avenue (250 S. Grand Ave., Downtown 213/626-6222 www.moca.org) and the Geffen Contemporary (152 N. Central Ave., Little Tokyo 213/626-6222 www.moca.org) are downtown; and the Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood 213/626-6222 www.moca.org) is in West Hollywood.

Galleries

Chinatown

The pedestrian walkway, Chung King Road, becomes a block party during an evening of multi-gallery openings. Festive red lanterns zigzag overhead. The must-sees include Telic Arts Exchange (951 Chung King Rd., Chinatown 213/229-8907 www.telic.info).

Culver City

Formerly a sleepy enclave populated by movie studios, Culver City is making a name for itself with dozens of world-class galleries located within a three-block radius of each other. The tree-lined neighborhood also hosts regular art walks.

Be sure to stop at Blum & Poe (2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City 310/836-2062 www.blumandpoe.com) and Roberts & Tilton (5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City 323/549-0223 www.robertsandtilton.com).

Downtown

What started as a grassroots organizational effort with three galleries in the city's downtown Historic Core's Gallery Row neighborhood is now a monthly free event held on the second Thursday of every month, with 40 galleries that participate.

The largest concentration of galleries is in the area called "Gallery Row." Approximately 30 galleries and museums are within a short walk of one another.

The Bert Green Fine Art (102 W. 5th St., Downtown 213/624-6212 www.bgfa.us) on the ground floor of the Rosslyn Hotel was one of the pioneering spaces in the district, and specializes in contemporary California artists.

The Gallery at REDCAT (631 W. 2nd St., Downtown 213/237-2800 www.redcat.org) in Walt Disney Concert Hall is another must-see.

Santa Monica

Constructed in 1875 as a stop for the Red Line trolley, the industrial complex known as Bergamot Station (2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica 310/829–5854 www.bergamotstation.com) is now Southern California's largest art gallery complex and cultural center, with more than 30 contemporary art galleries, the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica 310/586–6488 www.smmoa.org), several architecture and design firms, and a café.

West Hollywood and Beverly Hills

When Angelenos talk about art galleries the buzz is always about Chinatown, Culver City, and Bergamot Station. Yet West Hollywood and Beverly Hills have more than 40 noteworthy galleries, many of which are West Coast outposts of major New York counterparts.

The best include the Gagosian Gallery (456 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills 310/271-9400 www.gagosian.com), Margo Leavin (812 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood 310/273-0603 www.margoleavingallery.com), New Image Art (7908 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood 323/654-2192 www.newimageartgallery.com), Otero Plassart (820 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles 323/951-1068 www.oteroplassart.com), Prism (8746 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood 310/289-1301 www.prismla.com), and Regen Projects (633 N. Almont Dr., Los Angeles 310/276-5424 www.regenprojects.com).

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