So, you want to see art in LA. Like everything here, the art scene is sprawling and decentralized. A quick search will get you to the heavy hitters: The Getty (both of them), MOCA (all three of them), LACMA, The Broad, and The Hammer. They’re great and worth seeing, but another truth about LA is that there are always smaller gems hidden in our midst. If you’re looking for art spots a little off the beaten museum hallway, more of-the-moment, we’ve compiled our favorite galleries and lesser-known collections across the city. Let’s do this geographically.
DOWNTOWN + THE EASTSIDE
Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth: © Paul McCarthy, "WS, Bookends," 2013 / Photo: Genevieve Hanson
Hauser & WirthHauser & Wirth is at the forefront of LA's gallery scene, and absolutely worth visiting, even if you can’t find a parking spot and have to fork over the money for valet. It’s a sprawling complex that includes a restaurant, outdoor garden (with chickens!), and one of these beautifully curated art bookshop vortexes. It’s in the new and fancy part of the Arts District and boasts an impressive roster of contemporary artists and super cool shows, even if there’s an element of Instagram trap to the experience. Special note: Check their site to make sure they're not closed for installations.
356 MissionPainter Laura Owens transformed this 12,000-square-foot former industrial warehouse into 365 Mission, a gallery space for interdisciplinary programming ranging from your traditional visual arts to fashion shows. The crowd's all over the map, so even if you're not an art world fanatic or critical theorist, you'll be just fine.
Night GalleryFounded by Davida Nemeroff, Night Gallery is a massive contemporary art space with late-night openings, free beer, and an outdoor patio. An opening at Night Gallery is also the American Spirit-christened gateway to the underground after-hours. Just ask the nearest softboy, “Where are you guys going after this?” But before you Lyft away, make sure you take a look at the art, because it’s usually great and reflective of the latest strands of the scene.
Subliminal ProjectsSubliminal started as an artist collective headed by Shepard Fairy and Blaze Blouin. In 2003, they opened a gallery in Echo Park to give their peers a space to showcase the goods. Expect loud, graphic works in the same vein as Shepard Fairy and crew.
BBQLARelax! You are still reading a guide to LA art. The confusingly-named BBQLA is a migrating art installation, so check their site to see where/what they are now. The gallery features up-and-coming artists with work ranging from the irreverently humorous to the highly conceptual.
FaragoPhotographer Alex Farago moved from NY to LA to open this gallery (a mere 15 minute walk from The Standard, Downtown LA) that combines three former jewelry storefronts into one gallery space under a historic theater. The art's a little bit gore, a little bit rock’n’roll, and comes from friends of Farago.
Club Pro LA[Writer's note: I got a tattoo at Club Pro. I also watched a teenaged girl walk a teenaged boy on a leash made of candy at a Club Pro after-hours rave.] The sometimes rave/party/punk show space is really an excuse for the cofounders to raise money to operate the gallery. By day, this weekends-and-Wednesdays-only gallery is a well-kept treasure off the beaten path and showcases both local and international talent.
Phil GalleryPhil Gallery is a small, experimental art space located between Sade LA and a taco stand in Lincoln Heights. Founded by artists Carmel Ni and Philippe de Sablet, Phil features local, contemporary sculptors and painters and at openings, a tightly-packed hoard of hot art kids.
HOLLYWOOD + WEST HOLLYWOOD
Regen ProjectsRegen Projects has been a staple on the art scene for nearly 30 years. MOCA's director, Phillippe Vergne, has been quoted as saying, "I knew about the gallery before I ever moved to the United States." Their seriously impressive and important contemporary art shows are consistently some of the best in the city.
Matthew Marks GalleryLike any place worth visiting in LA, this little gem of a gallery is located spitting distance from a Whole Foods. Get your kombucha on, and then peruse modernist, formalist, and contemporary works of painting, sculpture, and photography.
HVW8 Art + DesignLocated just north of Fairfax’s fuccboi Mecca, the Supreme store, this tiny, off-the-beaten path space features irreverent, street art-y programming. It’s fun, thoughtful, and vibrant, and very LA in the best way.
Moran Bondaroff (formerly OHWOW)Founded in 2012, Moran Bondaroff promotes interdisciplinary expression with a program of shows by cool guys like Lucien Smith and OGs like Robert Mapplethorpe. The gallery does not shy away from theatrical installations, managing to strike a highly conceptual tone that’s thought-provoking and great fun all at once. It's located near Melrose place in West Hollywood right near Nobu Nobu Nobu Nobu.
The Underground MuseumFounded by late artist Noah Davis, The Underground Museum curates works from the MOCA collection in its goal to bring “museum-quality” art to its working-class neighborhood with free admission. They have a beautiful garden out back, as well as an exciting program of events that includes organic farmer’s markets and astrology classes.
Marciano Art FoundationThe Guess guys took over a huge, gorgeous, vaguely dystopian former Masonic temple in Mid-City North to create a new museum for LA. Curated by Philipp Kaiser, former curator at MOCA, the collection explores post-pop, ruin, and process with an emphasis on hometown legends. You need a reservation to get in, so make sure you book your spot in advance.
Ochi ProjectsLocated in Mid-City South, Ochi Project's aesthetic is frank and earthy with a pop-adjacent point of view. Check out their shop, too; it's a good one.
Blum & PoeThe Culver City Arts District is perhaps LA’s most centralized, reliable drag of quality art. It’s still kind of weird though, because Culver City is stuck somewhere between gentrified and out-of-the-way; it’s so sprawling and distorted by heat mirages, it might be, aesthetically, why people hate LA. But it’s also a hotspot for culture, with Blum & Poe at its center. The programming there ranges significantly in style, from heroically minimal to pulpy. Kanye's "Famous" exhibited here.
Honor FraserLocated on the Culver City Art Walk, this frank space features emerging and mid-level artists of all disciplines. Art here tends to be loud and poppy, so be sure to take your seizure meds.