The LA Gallery Scene, Perfectly Summed Up in Five Neighborhoods
"It’s constantly in flux," one gallerist admits.
In a city as large and diverse as Los Angeles the art scene has never had a traditional center to call its home. “The art scene has always moved a lot,” Ben Thornborough, a director of Regen Projects said, “it’s constantly in flux.”
As such the city’s art galleries are spread across the sprawling metropolis, settling in small clusters in the neighborhoods of Hollywood, Culver City, Venice, Beverly Hills, and Downtown.
The resurgence of Hollywood as an arts district was arguably started by gallerist Shaun Regen’s decision to open a giant space in the neighborhood in 2012. “The thing about Hollywood is that it has a lot of media buildings and warehouses that are perfect for galleries,” she told artnet News.
Here, blue-chip galleries like Regen Projects, representing artists such as Matthew Barney, Catherine Opie, Glenn Ligon, Marilyn Minter, and Anish Kapoor, are located close to emerging arts spaces such as Hannah Hoffman Gallery. As gallery director Ramsey Alderson put it, “Hollywood is always surviving and there’s a nice community.”
According to gallerist Esther Kim Varet of Various Small Fires, which focuses on international emerging artists: “Hollywood is perfect because a lot of the original LA galleries are here. Since we’re an LA gallery we wanted to be near the OG LA galleries.” She also noted that while there was certainly a trend pointing towards downtown, she said, “a lot of the downtown buildings are owned by big real-estate companies so you could be priced out.”
Nearby, Steve Turner gallery focuses on North and Latin American artists, in a city where about half of its residents identify as Hispanic. “I can visit the highest caliber of artists in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Colombia,” gallerist Steve Turner said. “I take these artists from South America and give them their first show in the US,” he said.
As close to a proper arts district as LA has to offer, a lot of art galleries have settled in the neighborhood nestled in between auto repair shops in a convenient side-by-side format that is not dissimilar to New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, albeit with much better weather.
Built around Blum & Poe, which arguably started the settlement of La Cienega Boulevard when it opened a large space in the neighborhood in 2003, followed by a move to their current location in 2009. The gallery represents a mix of mid-career and established artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Pia Camil, and Julian Schnabel.
“There is no center. LA’s art scene has been all around, but we wanted a historical foothold,” gallery partner Jeff Poe told artnet News. “In terms of LA what we did was radical because it’s a big box gallery,” he added.
Nearby galleries also include mainstays on LA’s scene such as Cherry and Martin, China Art Objects, Samuel Freeman, Honor Fraser, Luis de Jesus, and Roberts and Tilton.
Related: Inside Los Angeles’s Oddball Underground Art Scene
Whilst the neighborhood of Mid-Wilshire isn’t a huge arts center, it remains worth mentioning because it contains two of LA’s largest and most important galleries.
David Kordansky moved to the area in 2014 after leaving Culver City in search of more space. He found 20,000 square feet, combining two buildings, including a former martial arts gym run by Jackie Chan.
Showing an impressive range of artists including Rashid Johnson, Jonas Wood, and Sam Gilliam, its easy to see why the gallery has become such a important part of the city’s visual arts landscape.
Adjacent to the space lies Kayne Griffin Corcoran, which represents the likes of James Turrell, Deanna Thompson, and David Lynch. Located in a vine covered building with a resplendent courtyard, occasionally used to display sculptures, the space is just as impressive as the gallery’s lineup of artists.
Boyle Heights/Mission Road
Located in LA’s an industrial neighborhood on Boyle Heights’ Mission Road, a handful of galleries have taken advantage of the abundant space between between warehouses and factories. “We’re neither Boyle Heights proper nor an arts district, so it’s a relatively new area for galleries,” Kenzy El-Mohandes of Maccarone told artnet News. “This neighborhood was populated by industry and artists. It’s a place where art is fabricated. It’s changing,” she hastened to add.
Maccarone, which started in New York and represents avant-garde, mid-career artists such as Oscar Tuazon, Hanna Liden, and Alex Hubbard, settled in the district in September 2015. “A lot of our artists may not have had so much exposure in LA, so it’s nice to introduce them to this audience,” El-Mohandes concluded.
Nearby the arts non-profit 365 Mission Road, a joint venture between artist Laura Owens, gallerist Gavin Brown, and bookstore owner Wendy Yao, puts on captivating non-commercial exhibitions, while down the road Adam Lindeman’s Venus LA acts as the West Coast branch of his popular Venus Over Manhattan gallery founded in New York.
Related: Katherine Bernhardt’s Funky Fruit Salad Mural Enlivens LA Art Hotspot
Hyped as the newest arts district of LA, Downtown is earning a reputation as a hotspot for emerging artists. William Hathaway, director of Night Gallery said, “We moved to this space about three years ago and since then it [has] exploded.”
The gallery represents the likes of Derek Boshier, Samara Golden, and Anna Rosen. According to Hathaway, Night Gallery “started as an emerging gallery, but now our artists are developing into established players,” he explained. “We’re trying to build a blue-chip gallery. We want to be legit and big time, but we want to keep our street cred.”
Holly Stanton, director of Ghebaly Gallery, which moved across the street from Night Gallery in 2013, described the downtown scene as “highly industrial, but changing. More and more galleries are moving in, lots of risks are being taken with the projects here and its becoming more and more important.”
The gallery has a program of artists based in New York, LA, and Paris. “We work with a lot of artists who use sculpture and installations because the space allows it,” Stanton added, gesturing towards a large video installation by French-Algerian artist Neïl Beloufa.
Meanwhile, the behemoth that is Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is blurring the lines between museums and galleries. “There are galleries that are going to do more museum-like work,” gallery partner Paul Schimmel told artnet News. “It is a gallery that does museum exhibitions and I do think that’s a growing area,” he said.
Related: Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel Is a Gallery Built Like a Museum—What’s Really Going On?
A short walk away another downtown fixture, The Box, has been in the neighborhood for four-and-a-half years and caters to artists such as Mike Bouchet, Judith Bernstein, and Wally Hendrick.
“It used to be grimier, less expensive, and the food was better,” gallerist Mara McCarthy said. “But hey, that’s how it goes.”
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