Los Angeles County
Museum of Art ( LACMA )

Discover Everything This Cultural Complex Has to Offer, From Ancient Art to Free Friday Night Jazz Sessions!


The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) doesn't sit on as picturesque a location as the Getty Center or have the unique flavor of the Getty Villa. However, LACMA does make up for it in part by being the largest art museum in the Western U.S. It has over 100,000 art objects in it's collection!

Not only that, but LACMA is also great because it sits right in the middle of Los Angeles and offers a ton of great extraneous activities like tours, lectures, music and film. The 7 building complex truly offers a dizzying array of activities, making LACMA one of the top things to do in LA.
The campus sits on 20 acres of land in Hancock Park, just west of the La Brea Tar Pits. The museum opened in 1961 but has been undergoing a ten year renovation known as the “Transformation” since 2004. The first part of the renovation was completed in 2008, with a beautiful courtyard known as the “BP Grand Entance” unveiled along with the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum.


Philipe de Champaigne, "Saint Augustin"

The Permanent Collection

First things first lets take a look at what is on display in the permanent collections. To help you find the various collections here is a link to the map of the campus.

  • African Art (Ahmanson Building): LACMA's African art section isn't that big but they do have some great examples of beadwork and metalwork. My favorite section though has to be the masks on display. They are everything from comedic and friendly looking to terrifying!

  • Art of the Ancient Americas (Art of the Americas Building): This is one of the most extensive collections of the museum and is one of their best. It covers many of the ancient American civilizations, such as the Aztecs, Incas and Olmec. Don't miss the great Nayarit part of the collection. The seated figurines especially, portray these ancient peoples in a way that is so easy to identify with. Sitting with their heads bowed in sadness, head resting on their hands in thought etc... You can really identify with these little sculptures!

  • Art of the Ancient Near East (Ahmanson Building): LACMA has the largest collection of ancient near east art on the west coast, focusing mainly on the civilizations of Ancient Iran. In fact the collection spans 4000 years! So there's a lot to get through. This area of the world is where human civilizations first sprang up so it's an incredibly rich historical area. There are great reliefs from the powerful Assyrian Empire as well as incredibly detailed and beautiful “seals” used as personal emblems for high ranking officials in ancient cities like Babylon.

  • Art of the Pacific (Ahmanson Building): A small but fascinating collection of Oceanic art from Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Easter Island and more. The works from Papua New Guinea are especially beautiful and striking.

  • Art of the United States (Art of the Americas Building): This large collection of American Art consists mainly of oil paintings, watercolors and sculptures from the colonial period to World War II. This is the oldest collection in the museum and contains many paintings, with highlights from Mary Cassat, Winslow Homer and George Bellows.

    George Bellows

    George Bellows, "Cliff Dwellers"

  • Contemporary Art (Broad Building): This huge collection contains over 2000 works from around the world from 1945 to the present. The pieces presented range in medium from painting and sculpture to conceptual art and film and video. Highlights include , a large selection of Roy Lichtenstein's pop art, Jackson Pollock's “Black and White number 20” and Jasper John's “The Season” series.

  • Decorative Arts and Design (various buildings): This collection, that can be found throughout the campus, is made up of metalwork, woodwork, glasswork and ceramics. The pieces range from the middle ages (1200 AD) to the present day. This is a very varied collection from incredible renaissance dinnerware to beautiful stained glass windows.

  • Ancient Egyptian Art (Ahmanon Building): Spanning almost 5000 years the Ancient Egyptian civilization encompasses such a mind boggling time frame when you really think about it. Kingdoms were rising and falling for over 3000 years before even the Romans started establishing themselves. This collection spans the entire five thousand year length of the Ancient Egyptian civilization, from 4000 BC to around 700 AD. There are 2000 pieces in the collection. The Ancient Egyptians had a set style of art that they maintained for an incredibly long time! Regardless the pieces in the collection are beautiful. The various sarcophagi are amazingly beautiful in their intricate detail, showing how important the burial process was.

  • European Painting (Ahmanson Building): This collection is made up mostly of oil paintings from the 12th to the early 20th century. There are a ton of great paintings on show but some of the highlights include Rembrandt's “Raising of Lazarus”, Georges de la Tour's “Magdalen with the Smoking Flame” and Camille Pissarro's “La Place du Theatre Francais”.

    The Raising of Lazarus

    Rembrandt, "The Raising of Lazarus"

  • European Sculpture (Ahmanson Building): The beautiful sculptures from Europe, that range from the 12th to the early 20th century are integrated in with the European Painting collection in the Ahmanson building. My particular favorite is the “Judgement of Jupiter” by English scultor John Deare.

  • Islamic Art (Ahmanson Building): LACMA's collection of Islamic art is known as one of the best in the world. It certainly has many stunningly beautiful pieces. Particularly the enameled glass work, the illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy catch the eye. One of my favorite pieces is a stunning gold astrolabe, used for astronomical time keeping, that was made in Sevilla during the Moorish occupation.

  • Japanese Art (Pavilion for Japanese Art): This is a wonderful collection housed on three levels in it's own section of the LACMA complex. This is a truly huge collection covering art from 3000 BC to the present day. Highlights include a stunning full Samurai suit of armor, as well as a massive collection of “Netsuke”. Netsuke are amazing, small carved idols that were used as fasteners for pouches carried on traditional kimonos and kosode. These intricate little objects became incredibly detailed and were made from materials such as wood, whale's tooth, walrus tusk, bamboo and more. Some of the little figurines can be hilarious, like the “frustrated rat catcher”!

    netsuke lacma

    God of Wisdom-Netsuke

    Photo by Marshall Astor

  • Latin American Art (Art of the Americas Building): This newly expanded collection is one of the more encompassing at the museum. The pieces in varying mediums, range from the colonial times to the present. The modernist section of the collection is my personal favorite, with works from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Jose Clemente Orozco standing out. Be sure to check out Wilfredo Lam's Picasso inspired “Tropico”.

  • Modern Art (Ahmanson Building): The modern art collection has some outstanding pieces from such masters as Picasso, Kandinsky and Matisse. My favorites have to be a few of the examples of surrealism at the museum, specifically Magritte's “The Liberator” and Yves Tanguy's “I Await You”.

  • South and Southeast Asian Art (Ahmanson Building): The art represented here include pieces from a wide range of countries including India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The collection includes many representations of gods from Buddhism to Hinduism. It is interesting seeing the different representations of the same gods from different countries. For example, when comparing statues of the Buddha from Japan and India you notice how the various artists tended to base their representations on their own races' characteristics.


Japanese Buddha-Wood, 12th century

Thai buddha

Nairatmya(female buddha)- Tibet, 16th century

Upcoming Exhibitions

There are always new and interesting exhibitions being shown on a changing basis at LACMA.

  • One new and unique show is "Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India's Comics" (October 17th - February 10 2010). This show displays how ancient archetypes of Gods, heroes and heroines have been weaved into popular culture.

  • Renoir in the 20th century (February 14th,2010-May 9th 2010). This upcoming show highlights the last thirty years of Renoir's career when he broke away from impressionism.)

This is a link to the "upcoming exhibitions" calendar.


Now that I have summarized the art collections at LACMA you need to know about the various extracurricular activities that are offered at the LACMA campus, many of which are FREE!

First of all a great way to get the most out of your visit is to do a little pre planning to find a tour that piques your interest. They're both free and a great way to get the background info on the various artworks on display. Getting the context for a lot of these pieces really cranks up the interest, be sure to take advantage!

You can take a “spotlight tour”, which is a 15 minute talk on one work in the permanent collection. Or you could try an “in focus” that highlights one artist, movement or style. They last 20 to 25 minutes and are offered most days at 1 pm.

Another interesting option are the “Art Chats” programs, in which Gallery teachers moderate 50 minute discussions on specific exhibitions that are on show. Put in your two cents!

Use this calendar to find schedules and listings of the various tours.

Talks and Lectures

Various lectures are always being held at LACMA as well. Here is a link to the calendar of these events. Some of the talks are free but some can carry a hefty ticket price so make sure you find out which it is!

For Kids!

If you have children a great resource is the NexGen program. It is free to join for one adult and a child under 17. With enrollment you get access to a bunch of cool free family activities and tours. Check out the NexGen home page to see all the different things they offer.

Art Classes

At LACMA you can also sign up for various art classes, from oil painting to sculpture. You have to pay for these though. Check them out!

Film Viewings and Discussions

LACMA is also a great place to see and hear talks and discussions on film. Their weekend series tends to focus on an actor/actress or a director. The movies are shown in the Bing Theater, which is on the southeast side of the complex. It's a great way to see some classic films.

Admission: 10$ for general admission, 7$ for museum members, seniors and students with I.d. You pay only 5$ for the second film in a double bill. But the best deal of all is hitting a 2$ tuesday matinee.

Live Music

One of the most popular aspects on offer on the campus are their musical offerings.

The Friday night Jazz sessions held at 6pm on the beautiful BP grand entrance courtyard are a great way to enjoy an evening. Check out the calendar to see who's slated next. This is very popular so get there early!

If you love classical music then Sundays Live is the program for you. Also free and held in the Bing Theater, this show is first come first serve. Here's a link to their schedule.

Arts and Music is a program that celebrates the various exhibitions that show at the museum. It brings world class performers to Los Angeles and costs 25$ for adults and 18$ for members, seniors and students.

Latin Sounds is a great free concert series that brings world renowned musicians to the play the hottest tunes from Central and South America at the beautiful Brown Amphitheater at the north side of Hancock Park. This program runs only from May to September.

Here's the calendar!


LACMA is open every day except Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

  •  Monday  (12 noon–8 pm)  Tuesday  (12 noon–8 pm)  Wednesday (CLOSED)  Thursday  (12 noon–8 pm)  Friday  (12 noon–9 pm)  Saturday  (11 am–8 pm)  Sunday  (11 am–8 pm)


Parking is available in the new 6th Street parking garage east of Fairfax Avenue. It's 7$. Other parking options:

I would suggest using the metered parking along 6th Street. But read the signs carefully. Good for a few hours, plus you can pop out to feed the meter for way less money than the 7 bucks.

Evening special: Vehicles entering the 6th Street parking garage after 7 pm park for free.

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90036 , between Fairfax and Curson. You can enter this address in the trip planner at metro.net.

Here is a map to LACMA.


  • Adults: $12 Seniors (62+ with ID): $8 Students (18+ with school ID): $8 Children (17 and under): Free

On the second tuesday of every month admission is free to the permanent galleries. Also every day after 5pm you may pay what you want. In addition, holidays that land on a monday mean free admission all day.

As you can see LACMA is a cultural powerhouse offering a huge array of great programs to take advantage of, a lot of them free! So get down there!

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