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12 • dec • 2017

Insider's Guide to the Trendiest Art Districts, Galleries, and Museums in LA

Travel

   

When I think of LA, the skyline at dawn comes to mind.  I think of the skyline because it’s so proud against the backdrop of the Baldwin Hills and dawn because it’s nearly impossible not to stay up all night if your tour guides are native LA personalities who thrive on the museums, galleries, and art districts speckled across the city.  Late hours are required by the art scene, and to make it more than a weekend in LA you either learn to be a night owl or you leave.

There is never a shortage of things to do in LA, but access to the more exclusive, underground subculture events require some intel.  I travelled through the city on my way West to San Francisco and was lucky enough to stumble into one of the more exclusive crews by way of a childhood friend.  To them, it was all about clout, image, and event attendance. For me, I just got to dress-up for a weekend and tag along to the glitz and glamour-laden bars and galleries that they frequent every weekend.

The first area we hit was downtown LA, and our Lyft dropped us off at the entrance to The Last Bookstore, an iconic used bookstore located in what used to be the first floor of a bank.  The ceilings are mile-high and the room is flanked by giant marble pillars.  If you go upstairs, the bookstore becomes a winding art gallery with rooms full of featured artist work.

That night, a series of galleries opened their doors to patrons and hosted an art walk featuring up-and-coming artists of all sorts.  Within the four block radius of The Last Bookstore, we were able to peruse many Art Walk DTLA offerings such as FOLD Gallery and The Hive Gallery & Studios.

After we had our fill of fine art, we meandered around near Exchange LA, a fashionable nightclub hosting live music in what used to be the LA stock exchange building.  LA has a knack for making the most of outdated industrial spaces.  Everywhere we went, Instagram handles were exchanged and Snapstories were updated and I got to dance to a hum of electronica and pop.  LA is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a weekend out and often the best place to find events is through the Instagrams of LA natives with notable following, where they’ll post exclusive event invites and posters with event details and discounted pricing.

As the night continued, we made our way to 1Oak, an exclusive LA nightclub and art gallery located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood and rubbed shoulders with some local celebs in the area.  It’s easy to spend money in these spots, and I left with far less cash in my pocket than I planned but I still tell myself those Patron shots were worth it.

Eventually, the purr of the music got the best of us and we headed to the Watts Towers to unwind and relax, which weren’t open for admission at 4am but provided an eerie and mystical view of the city in twilight that few have seen.  The Watts Towers were built by Sam Rodia, and are heralded one of the most famous representations of non-traditional architecture in the U.S.  The sculptures’ armatures are constructed from steel pipes and rods, wrapped with wire mesh, and coated with mortar.  During the day, guests can explore its winding arms and even touch the mosaics along the inside of the mortar.

We returned home as the sun came up and elected to get at least a few hours of sleep before we headed back into the city for some daylight exploration.  After we woke up and scrubbed the glitter from the previous night, we grabbed a Lyft to the Phantasma Gloria in Echo Park, where we roamed through the 24-foot-tall sculpture of glass, beads, and bottles arranged in a stunning homage to the sun.  It’s easy to recover from a wild night at one of LA’s many art exhibitions or installations.

I wish I’d had more time in the city because two days isn’t long enough to hit every gallery and museum I needed to.  I’ll definitely be heading back to check out the Museum of Death on Hollywood Blvd. to peruse the largest collection of serial killer artwork in existence.  It sounds morbid, but the shock of the place is magnetic and I love that.  I’ll also have to find my way to the Los Angeles Museum of Broken Relationships to explore the existence of affairs in human life and view their collection of ex-partner relics and love-notes-no-longer.  The city is full of discoverable experiences, and the mood of the city allows visitors to feel a sense of control, like a ‘choose your own adventure’ story.  It’s hard to stay away for long but next time I visit, I’ll know to reserve at least four days to do it.