Dara: LACMA (aka the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) is one of the best museums in Southern California, and luckily for us, basically in our backyard.
TJ: We visit all the time now, and I even go on runs through it in the morning. It’s a beautiful set of modern buildings, surrounded by a park, and also linked to the famous La Brea Tarpits.
Dara: We’re have a dual membership, which is definitely worth getting if you have a friend that is also passionate about art. Before TJ and I were together, it was my friend Sabrina that convinced me to get a dual membership with her, and I’m so glad she did! The secret pro-tip about dual memberships is that you don’t always have to go with the other person you bought it with. I can use my dual membership to get me and any other friend in any time!
TJ: Any level of membership is a great deal because you get free advanced previews of exhibits, free or reduced prices on special exhibits, and a bunch of discounts on all the LACMA restaurants and stores.
It’s $30 for a student annual membership, $60 for a individual annual membership, and $110 for a dual annual membership. So since a regular adult day pass is $15, you’d only have to go four times a year to make the membership worth it – even less if you wanted to see one of their amazing specialty exhibits, which are an extra $10 each.
Though, if you’re someone who lives nearby and gets out of work early, LACMA’s free to all LA county residents on weekdays after 3pm and free to everyone on the second Tuesday of every month.
And even if you’re just passing through LA, a visit to LACMA is a must! Pro-tip: there are box offices in the museum’s inner and outer courtyards, the former of which most people don’t know about. When you buy your tickets you get a sticker that gives you access to the majority of the museum, and you can also get physical tickets for any of the specialty exhibits – some of which have timed entries so get there early!
LACMA’s most Instagram’d and well-known exhibits are actually the two large installations outside of the museum that are free to the public. The first is Levitated Mass, a massive suspended rock over a walkway, which over 1,000 people watched the installation of.
And the second is Urban Light, a set of over 200 tightly packed street lamps. You’ve seen them in everything from No String’s Attached to Valentine’s Day, and if you visit LACMA in the spring you’re likely to see people taking prom pictures and engagement and wedding photos there.
Also outdoors at LACMA is a tranquil fountain filled with the famous mobile sculptures of Alexander Calder. You can see it without going in the museum but it’s best viewed from the lower level that can only be accessed with a ticket.
But, as you can imagine, the most compelling exhibits at LACMA can be found inside the museum itself.
The museum is split up into several buildings. The group of buildings to the East, closest to the tarpits, contain mostly permanent exhibits. It’s there in the Ahmanson building (above) where LACMA keeps its renowned collection of modern art, which includes multiple works from the likes of Picasso, Degas, Warhol, Rothko, and more. These permanent exhibits also include the Art of the Pacific, European Art, Islamic Art, German Expressionism, and more.
Nearby in the Hammer Building, the Pavilion for Japanese Art, and the north side of Art of the Americas Building are more permanent exhibitions showing a variety of art.
The south side of the Art of the Americas Building is ever changing with fantastic special exhibits. One of our favorites that we’ve seen there was “At Home With Monsters” which was an amazing retrospective on Guillermo Del Toro. It was masterfully curated with clips from Guillermo’s movies, his diaries and sketches, sculptures of his creations, and even many things from his personal home art collection.
The nearby Bing Theater hosts screenings for it’s Tuesday Matinees, LACMA Film Club, and Film Independent at LACMA series. Most of these screenings are all open to the public but discounted for LACMA members and even further discounted/free for members of the LACMA film club. A while back we got to see Nick Refn’s latest film, Neon Demon, at an early screening there, which was a lot of fun.
On the other side of LACMA, you have the Broad building, and the Resnick Pavilion, both of which host special exhibits. The Broad building is where you’ll find a lot of the more in demand, timed special exhibits. Previously, this space featured the very famous “Rain Room” exhibit, but it now holds Alejandro Innaritu’s Carne Y Arena VR experience.
These special exhibits are my favorite part of being a LACMA member because we get early access and discounted ticketing. A lot of the more popular exhibits sell out very quickly, because you can only experience them in smaller groups, and having early access is key.
The “Rain Room” was a fantastic experience but I think my favorite has been James Turrell’s “Breathing Light” – one of his famous Ganzfeld rooms which inspired the Hotline Bling music video setting.
This version of a Ganzfeld (a room of light) had sloped white walls, and was filled with a changing, neon light emanating from one side of the room. You lost any sense of depth inside the room due to the casual slope of the walls, and could get lost looking at the neon screen illuminating the space. It felt primal, simple, like being in the womb. I loved it.
Another special experience I loved was LACMA hosting the art installation/experience called the Heareafter Institute and their interactive after-life experiences. I was very sad to find out at the end that none of the technology they presented was real, but I’m still so obsessed with the digital tombstone they created that has a record player on top playing a “soundtrack to their life” and a front screen that showed pieces of their social media timelines over the years – displaying, tweets, videos, Facebook posts, and more. It really made me think about what they called your “digital afterlife”.
The Broad Building also includes one of my favorite permanent exhibits – Metropolis II, the ultimate Hot Wheels and toy trains experience. Every time we go, the room’s always filled with a bunch of kids and parents… and us.
In all seriousness though it’s an interesting critique and view of city life/modernism, and it’s mesmerizing to watch.
Outside of the amazing exhibits, LACMA also has a bunch of food options. There are usually at least 5 cheap but incredibly delish food trucks parked across Wilshire Blvd, and there are several cafés and food stands throughout the museum itself. If you’re looking for something fancy, Ray & Stark’s bar, near the entrance of LACMA, has incredible (but expensive) food.
They even have a water sommelier – no joke – there is someone who works there who pairs different waters (based on pH, minerals, etc.) from different countries with your food. They have a 45-page menu of waters.
And if you go through all of LACMA and still have time, there’s a ton to do nearby. The area is called “Museum Row” for a reason – right next door you can find fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, across the street you’ll find incredible cars at the Peterson Museum, and there are a bunch of smaller specialty museums on Wilshire.
But first and foremost, go to LACMA! And if you live nearby, get a membership! You won’t regret it.
COST REPORT: $
ADULT DAY TICKET: $15/EACH