New museums, galleries, and institutions in Los Angeles are developing experiential ways of linking us to the past. Technology helps us to filter our experience of the present through an augmented reality that collapses space and time. No city does this quite like L.A. To learn about who you are in relation to Los Angeles probably takes you ten years of resident status, or more.
One of the best ways to condense (while expanding) your experience of L.A. is to visit a public plaza in the heart of Little Tokyo. Punctuated by modernist sculptures and indigenous trees like a grapefruit, the plaza was designed by the artist and activist Isamu Noguchi (born Los Angeles, 1904). Its uniform, brick hardtop contains symbolic references to different versions of L.A.: built over, buried, imagined, and disappeared. The plaza specifically honors a generation of Japanese Americans who transformed a citrus grove into the heartbeat of Little Tokyo. We recommend the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center to learn about the current displacements residents of Little Tokyo face (Noguchi volunteered to live in a Japanese American internment camp for seven months in 1941).
Also in the neighborhood, The Broad’s postwar and contemporary collections. Nearby, don’t miss The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, currently showing Laura Owens and Zoe Leonard. Notably, MOCA has an ongoing partnership with The Underground Museum in Arlington Heights. The family-run museum expertly précises the art and culture of a contemporary, black diaspora.
After getting your art fill, grab some udon noodles at Marugame Monzo, amazing rolls at Sushi Gen (which has been around since the early eighties—an L.A. classic), or gluten-free and vegan Japanese fare at Shojin.
From Little Tokyo, just nearby is the Arts District. With its cobblestone streets, murals, curated shops, boutiques, and beer bars, the Arts District has become an absorbing condensation of new, citywide developments. Hauser & Wirth is boldly placed in the area, with simultaneous shows of Annie Leibovitz and Piero Manzoni this month. Close by is Denk Gallery, presenting new works by Tim Hawkinson.
There are still sites of the former Arts District that remain, too. You can visit the Artspace Warehouse, or walk over to the site of Artists’ Loft Museum of Los Angeles (ALMLA). There you’ll also find, Art Share L.A., a vibrant warehouse sanctuary that provides studio and exhibition spaces, as well as 30 subsidized live/work lofts for artists.
Anyone who understands commercial art as a mute adjective should head over to Culver City and learn from the artists its galleries represent. There, you’ll find galleries like Blum & Poe, now showing “Parergon: Japanese Art of the 1980s and 1990s”; Anat Ebgi, presenting a solo show of Faith Wilding; Honor Fraser, with Sarah Cain’s “The Sun Will Not Wait” on view; and others like Roberts Projects, Philip Martin Gallery, and Walter Maciel.
After an afternoon at the galleries, pop into Arcana: Books on the Arts, an anchor of the neighborhood since 1984. It specializes in new, rare, and out-of-print books on art, design, and cinema. Needing some sustenance after some serious visual stimulation, why not order the Japan Miyazaki Wagyu Beef A5 from the area’s best restaurant, n/naka, where Chef Niki Nakayama creates kaiseki dishes with a California twist.
What you see in Culver City can be placed into meaningful conversation with the galleries Downtown. The past five years have seen a huge change downtown—with an influx of renovations and developments, including hotels (The Standard, Downtown L.A.; Freehand L.A.; and the neighborhood’s original pioneer, the Ace Hotel) restaurants (Broken Spanish, Bestia, Bavel), shops (like Voyager Los Angeles) and luxury residential buildings. Some of the hippest galleries in L.A. can also be found here, like Night Gallery, located right off Butte Street Junction, currently showing Derek Fordjour and Tau Lewis; and Ghebaly Gallery, presenting a solo show of Kelly Akashi now through March 9.
For your contemporary art, design, and fashion shopping needs, head over to West Hollywood. After checking out the solo Jimmy Wright show at M+ B Gallery, peruse the latest editions for your design collection at Poliform (featuring a range of home furnishings and modular systems) and Luminaire (at the company’s first West Coast location). MAOR – The Space has been in the area since 2010, designed by the jewelry maker Maor Cohen himself. We aslo love Please Do Not Enter in West Hollywood, curated by art collectors Nicolas Liber and Emmanuel Renoird. And don’t miss Just One Eye, another carefully selected shop located in a Howard Hughes-designed landmark building.