Museum Row is west of Miracle Mile, the city’s cultural and designated arts center. Its nickname is derived from the line of museums along the strip, including La Brea Tar Pits, George C. Page Museum, Craft and Folk Art Museum, Petersen Automotive Museum, and the LA County Museum of Art.
La Brea Tar Pits
The museums along Museum Row begins with the famous La Brea Tar Pits at Curson and Wilshire Avenue, where a large pool of smelly tar encircles full-sized models of mastodons trying to free themselves from the muck. The scene is a re-creation of prehistoric days when these creatures became entrapped by the grime after trying to drink from the thin surface water covering the tar.
George C. Page Museum
The George C. Page Museum at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard showcases millions of bones belonging to various animals that have been found at La Brea Tar Pits. The bones have been reconstructed and are on display. There are mounted remains of many early or extinct creatures such as the bison, the giant ground sloth, and the saber-toothed tiger. Oil drillers are perhaps the most eager of visitors attracted to the tar. For years, they have pumped the liquid out of the ground, creating an industry as lucrative as the movie business. In fact, it was the petroleum geologist, William Orcutt, who discovered the first saber-toothed tiger skull in the world in 1916. The oil magnate, G. Allan Hancock, donated the property where it was found to the county that same year. Today, tar still seeps through the grass. Most of it oozes behind the fences away from the sight line of visitors.
Craft and Folk Art Museum
The Craft and Folk Art Museum at 5814 Wilshire Boulevard is home to a modest collection of handmade, multicultural objects. Items include clothes, pottery, and rugs. The gallery space is limited but hosts a few rotating exhibitions, highlighted by vases and pottery bowls designed by Picasso. You’ll also find local examples of “low-rider” bikes as well as international carnival costumes.
Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum is at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard, the intersection of the boulevard with Fairfax Avenue. The museum features enough mint-condition classic models to satisfy even the most devoted car-lover. There are three floors worth of cars in various shapes and forms, from luxury models, to muscle cars, to movie-prop vehicles. On the ground floor, you’ll find a path that leads you past dioramas retelling the history of LA car worship up to the present – from the reconstruction of a Streamline Moderne gas station, to a mock 1950s carhop diner, to a 1960s hot-rod body shop. The highlight of the museum is an exhibit re-creating the Dog Café, which was a past LA landmark – a roadside structure resembling a giant, pipe-smoking bulldog.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard opened in 1966 and has amassed an impressive collection of over 250,000 art works and objects from around the world. The museum is currently undergoing a series of renovations, the final one of which will be completed by 2010.
The museum is simply enormous and requires a number of visits to truly enjoy the countless treasures on display. It is divided into four buildings: the Ahmanson Building, the Anderson Building, the Japanese Pavilion, and the LACMA West.
The Ahmanson Building features collections of American Art, highlighted by paintings from the hands of John Singleton Copley and Winslow Homer. There are also an assortment of American and Western furniture from the Federal Period and the 1950s. The first floor features Central and South American art, the impressive being the Fearing Collection, which consists of sculpted guardian figures and funeral masks from the early civilizations of pre-Columbian Mexico. Below the first floor, you’ll find a collection of Chinese and Korean art – ancient lacquer-ware trays, bronze drinking vessels, hanging scrolls, glazed stone bowls and jade figurines – that encompass 7,000 years of East Asian history. The main attractions of the second floor are the European art rooms, which include Roman and Greek art as well as those from the medieval period. There are also works from the Renaissance and Mannerist eras, including Veronese’s Two Allegories of Navigation, El Greco’s The Apostle Saint Andrew, Hans Holbein’s Portrait of a Young Woman with White Coif, Rembrandt’s Portrait of Marten Looten, and several Frans Hals photographs. In other galleries on the same floor, you’ll find Georges de la Tour’s Magdalen with Smoking Flame, Jean-Jacques Feuchere’s bronze sculpture of Satan, and paintings by the likes of Degas, Renoir, and Gauguin. The second floor also has several ancient sculptures, bronze figures, and stone deities from ancient Persia and Egypt dating back to 3,000 BC. The third floor of the building is dedicated to Southeast Asian and Islamic Art. You’ll find sculptures of Buddha in gold and copper, carved stones of Hindu gods, and a costume and textile gallery of Persian rugs, Japanese feudal kimonos, Jacobean gauntlets of gold and silk, 19th century New England quilts, and Hollywood costumes, gowns, and headpieces.
The Anderson Building is where the contemporary art is showcased. The highlights in this section of the museum are 20th century works by Picasso, Magritte, and expressionists like Franz Kline and Mark Rothko. You’ll also find artistic video presentations, fascinating narratives, and multimedia assemblages.
The Japanese Pavilion is on the north side of LACMA and is housed in an effectively striking design of a building – a traditional-modern hybrid with screens that filter the level and quality of light that reaches the interior. On display are elegant ceramics and lacquerware, painted screens and scrolls, and other Japanese art.
The LACMA West building on the western end of the Museum Row is housed in the 1934 building that was once the former May Company department store. The museum hosts blockbuster art shows at various times and also has a special gallery of experimental works as well as historic and contemporary works by Native American artists. Most importantly, the museum has a giant playpen for kids to enjoy allowing parents to stroll freely through the galleries and enjoy the beautiful art.
Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.
“Lacma.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacma>
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