LA: America’s new cultural capital?







Over the last few decades Los Angeles has established itself as one of the world’s leading cultural capitals.  For a long time the city struggled with its identity, Hollywood dominated and thrived whilst the urban landscape around the city declined.  For years LA born artists would up-sticks and head for New York, while few artists would seek to settle in the city and even fewer cultural tourists would visit.  But this has all changed.

Edward Wyatt of the New York Times desribes how new centers of gravity have emerged in the City of Angels for contemporary art and artists, that had suffered for years because of its lack of a central arts district. Now there is not one such geographic center but several: downtown, where a thriving gallery district operates in what used to be a nighttime ghost town, as well as in former industrial areas in Culver City and Santa Monica. And a new generation of curators have been lured to the major museums here. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Hammer Museum have each attracted energizing new talent in recent years.

In architecture Los Angeles has been an incubator not just for Mr. Gehry but for the rising star Thom Mayne, and high-profile commissions by Renzo Piano at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Steven Holl at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County are proceeding apace. And the boom in television and film production in Hollywood has created new opportunities for visual artists and dancers, many of whom also work for companies that perform in or have close ties to Pacific Rim countries.

Downtown, which not too long ago was little more than a ghost town after 5 p.m. on weekdays, now bustles with activity around Fifth and Spring streets on Friday and Saturday nights, when art galleries such as Frith St and Infusion typically schedule their openings of new shows. China Town is awash with galleries and fashionable openings at galleries that include China Arts Ojects and  Mandarin Gallery .   Similar scenes unfold around more established galleries on Wilshire Boulevard (such as LACMA & Sherman Gallery) and among emerging contemporary galleries that include Ikon, Griffin & Richard Heller in Santa Monica and Western Project & BLK/MRKT in Culver City, the incorporated area south of Interstate 10.

The international art work quickly woke up to LA’s importance when collector Charles Saatchi unveiled his private collection of LA based artists at the Royal Academy in 2006.


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