Do you think of Los Angeles as a museums capital? As I have shared in two previous articles (Los Angeles as a Museums Capital: Parts I and II), Los Angeles has much to offer in terms of museums and other cultural attractions. Over the past few months, I visited a few more of the fine cultural institutions this area has to offer, including: MOCA Pacific Design Center, Pacific Asia Museum, and Los Angeles River Center and Gardens. You may not have heard of these places, but as I will explain below, they are all interesting and exemplify the diverse cultural offerings available in our backyard.
MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Pacific Design Center is located in the heart of West Hollywood and features rotating exhibitions of architecture and design. It is the smallest of the three MOCA locations; the other two are MOCA Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo. When I visited, Jacob Hashimoto’s Gas Giant exhibt was on display. Hashimoto is an artist whose work studies visual experience in space, artifice, and craft through the use of materials like handmade kites, fiberglass, marble, and the skillful use of light. Combining traditional kite-making techniques and painting into sculptural environments, Hashimoto creates massive space-altering installations like the the Gas Giant with thousands of paper sheets. As shown in the photos below, this exhibit is visually stunning and vibrant. (Unfortunately, the show ended on June 8, 2014.) This MOCA is located on the Pacific Design Center or PDC campus which is a 1.2 million-square foot multi-use facility which houses the West Coast’s top decorating and furniture market, with showrooms, public and private spaces, and two restaurants. Designed by architect Cesar Pelli, the 14-acre campus opened in1975, and is home to three iconic buildings: the 750,000-square foot Center Blue, 450,000-square foot Center Green, and 400,000-square foot Center Red.
Located in Pasadena, Pacific Asia Museum was established in 1971 and is one of the few institutions in the U.S. dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum was recently acquired by the University of Southern California (USC) as reported in this article. What I like most about this museum is the building which houses it. Built in 1926, the structure is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and was designed by the architectural firm of Marston, Van Pelt & Maybury in the style of a Chinese imperial palace. It features a central courtyard with a garden, small pool, and decorative carvings. The house was originally the residence, galleries, and Treasure House/emporium of pioneering collector and entrepreneur Grace Nicholson (1877-1948). The museum’s collection contains over 15,000 objects, spanning more than 4,000 years and the region extending from Persia to the Pacific Islands. During my visit, artist Hung Liu’s Jiu Jin Shan (Old Gold Mountain) installation was on display. I ended up spending a lot of time admiring this unique piece which is made of over 100,000 fortune cookies over railroad track, and pays tribute to the Chinese migrant workers who lost their lives building the railroad.
Los Angeles River Center and Gardens is technically not a museum, but having been there recently, I can say that it is definitely a historic attraction worth visiting. This facility is a hidden gem located at the former site of the Lawry’s California Center, near the confluence of the L.A. River and the Arroyo Seco, close to Elysian Park and downtown Los Angeles. It offers beautiful mission-style grounds and conference facilities that serve as a focal point for the revitalization of the River. Housed in the historic California Building, the Visitor Center is an exhibit hall that celebrates the eleven miles of natural river where reeds, mulefat, willows, and native riparian plants have returned. The exhibit showcases the history of the L.A. River, its current status, and a vision for the River’s future. The River Garden Park is located at the corner of San Fernando Road and Avenue 26 at the northern tip of the River Center and Gardens. This park serves as an entry point to the River Center by foot or bike, and provides much needed green space to the local community.
Los Angeles is definitely a museums capital. I have just highlighted a few more of them above and I know there are still others that I need to explore. As I have done before, I want to encourage all Angelenos and visitors alike to take advantage of and visit the area’s diverse and unique museums and cultural institutions.
Note: All photos by author.