Museums in Los Angeles

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Petroleum mogul Dr. Armand Hammer clung to life just long enough to see The Hammer Museum make its debut in 1990, passing away three weeks later. Without the founder’s support, construction screeched to a halt and spaces sat in varying states of completion. But not for long. The powers that be at UCLA saw Hammer’s vision, and took control of the abandoned museum in 1994. They restored it to its former glory by importing the university’s own collections and staff. Today, The Hammer’s unique compendium of works still hints at the unlikely collaboration that bore the museum all those years ago. Its stockpile of masterpieces explores the modern-day in a contemporary collection of mostly drawings and photographs. Richard Hawkins’ disembodied zombie george green might best embody current artistic trends; his expressionless eyes stare from a yellow backdrop, the handiwork of an undead inkjet printer. Meanwhile, the Armand Hammer Collection, left behind by the museum’s namesake, balances george and other outlandish works with 19th-century art by Degas, Cézanne, and van Gogh. It’s virtually impossible to predict whether rotating exhibits will land in classic or contemporary camps. They range from performance art installations—Floor of the Forest depicts two dancers moving through hanging jumbles of used clothing and ropes—to sculptures, paintings, and drawings. To cultivate better artistic understanding, the Hammer Museum hosts events including lunchtime art talks, tours, and screenings.

10899 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles,
CA
US

A giant forest stretches across most of California?but its impossible to hike there. Submerged just off of the state's rocky coast, large kelp forests make a home to diverse animal and plant life. Moray eels, leopard sharks, and giant sea bass all swim beneath the water, while sea otters splash at the surface. That's just one of the habitats on display inside the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

The 21,000-square-foot aquarium showcases Southern California's rich marine life, making it the largest aquarium of its kind in the world. The Susanne Lawrenz-Miller Exhibit Hall charts a journey through different regions, from the open ocean, to the mudflats, to the sandy shores. Other areas present a more immersive experience. The tide pool lets visitors touch a starfish, while the exploration center lets them crawl into a tunnel, where they find themselves surrounded by octopuses, sting rays, and other creatures that have signed contracts to make public appearances.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium wants to keep all of these creatures around for the long term. Case and point: the aquarium houses a research library and an aquatic nursery, where the team raises young sea animals and trains young scientists.

3720 Stephen M White Dr.
San Pedro,
CA
US

In the late 1980s, the Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered top museum leaders and representatives to discuss new ways of teaching tolerance to a younger generation. Since 1993, the Museum of Tolerance has encouraged visitors to contemplate the effects of intolerance with interactive exhibits on the Holocaust as well as present-day discrimination. The guided, 70-minute sound-and-light presentation at the Holocaust exhibit recreates Nazi-occupied Europe, and the Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves exhibit showcases diversity through the personal histories of several American celebrities, including Billy Crystal and Carlos Santana. Some of the museum's features also examine more recent issues, such as the Tolerancenter, which highlights the struggles of the civil-rights movement and enlightens museum goers on contemporary human-rights violations. The museum also hosts special exhibitions, live testimonies from Holocaust survivors, and youth programs, such as anti-bullying workshops.

9786 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles,
CA
US

Since its inception in 1979, The Museum of Contemporary Art has devoted itself to post-1940 artwork, a focus that sets it apart from all other Los Angeles museums. Its permanent collection harbors more than 5,000 art objects, encompassing media from video installations and documentary photography to pop art. Works from renowned artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Diane Arbus share gallery space with pieces from up-and-coming artists across the museum’s three facilities.

To complement its permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating temporary exhibits, such as the current Mike Kelley exhibit, which explores american pop culture through irreverent, multimedia pieces. The museum staff also augments these displays with events, such as their screening series in collaboration with the Los Angeles Filmforum, which explores the intersection of experimental film and art like a projection screen sewn with pages from DaVinci’s journal.

152 N Central Ave
Los Angeles,
CA
US

Exhibitions and lifelike dioramas containing more than 150 vehicles sprawl across Petersen Automotive Museum's 300,000-square-foot confines, illustrating the impact of the automobile on American culture. On the first floor, permanent collections elucidate with detailed displays covering the role of the car in Los Angeles and motion picture, the history of alternative power, and the favorite engine sounds of each president. The Hot Wheels Hall of Fame parades more than 1,000 Hot Wheels vehicles, original models, and design sketches. Five galleries on the second floor shelter rotating exhibits, and the third floor's May Family Discovery Center introduces tykes to the fundamental functions of cars with interactive driving stations. Patrons wander among the extensive displays individually or join tours for groups, schools, car clubs, or families of parking cones.

6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles,
CA
US

Rated “very highly recommended” by Frommer’s, the Smithsonian-affiliated Japanese American National Museum is one of the largest museums in the United States dedicated to sharing the untold stories, the fascinating culture, and the rich history of Japanese Americans. With more than 60,000 artifacts and a rotation series of exhibitions, the Japanese American National Museum offers hours of information displays, including the current Zen Garage exhibit. Holding an array of public programs, film screenings, arts-and-crafts workshops, and cooking seminars throughout the year, the Japanese American National Museum was recently awarded the 2010 Institute of Museums and Library Services’ National Medal, the nation's highest honor for museums and its second-highest honor for monocle-wearing intellectual dolphins. Those purchasing the Supporting membership will receive discounts on museum store items, and film, concert, lecture, and workshop tickets, as well as the following:

369 E 1st St
Los Angeles,
CA
US