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184 votes

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90036 USA

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Grand Tour of Los Angeles

Los Angeles
5 hours 30 minutes
From $79

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Los Angeles
90 minutes
From $75
Closed Now
Opens Sat 10a
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“Art that represents Los Angeles”

FEATURED EXHIBIT: Urban Light. The cast iron street lamps are of 17 styles, which vary depending on the municipality that commissioned them. They range from about 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters), are painted a uniform gray and placed, forest-like, in a near grid. The lights are solar powered and switched on at dusk. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Susan Freudenheim described the restored lamps as displaying "elaborate floral and geometric patterns" at the base, with "fluted shafts and glass globes that cap them...meticulously cleaned, painted and refurbished to create an exuberant glow." Urban Light was preceded by Sheila Klein's Vermonica (1993), which places 25 Los Angeles street lamps in a parking lot at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevards. The intersection had burned during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Burden viewed his sculpture as a formal entry way to the museum on Wilshire Boulevard: "I've been driving by these buildings for 40 years, and it's always bugged me how this institution turned its back on the city."

Burden first began collecting street lamps in December 2000 without a specific work in mind, and continued collecting them for the next seven years. He purchased his first two lamps at the Rose Bowl Flea Market after bargaining down the price from $950 to $800, each. He purchased about 60 from contractor and collector Anna Justice, who was instrumental in the restoration of sandblasting, recasting missing parts, rewiring to code, and then painting a uniform grey. As Burden's collection grew, the ground around his Topanga Canyon studio became littered with parts, which the artist referred to as "lamp carcasses". Most of the street lamps came from the streets of Southern California, including Hollywood, Glendale, and Anaheim, with some from Portland, Oregon. Among the 17 styles represented are the Outpost, Hollywood and Pacific Twin. The largest, most ornate, called Rose Poles, were from downtown Los Angeles; a few can still be seen at the corner of Broadway and Sixth.

In late 2003, Burden discussed installing a hundred of the lamps at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, but the gallery eventually balked at the cost. While he later sent 14 lamps to an exhibition in London, his goal was to keep as much of his then 150-piece collection together as possible. To that end, he invited visitors to view the streetlamps outside his studio, where he had installed them in dense rows on two sides of the building. Among the prospective purchasers in mid-2006 was The MAK Museum for Applied Art in Vienna and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, represented by its new director, Michael Govan. He visited the studio at twilight, and from the driveway, saw the lights lit and concluded that the installation would be a perfect fit. Govan was followed by Andrew M. Gordon, a Goldman Sachs executive who would later become chairman of the museum's board. Gordon approved the purchase through his family foundation for an undisclosed price.

In 2012, Burden produced a model for Xanadu, another streetlight-themed installation, which would place 58 lights on every exterior ledge of the New Museum building in New York.

The Urban Light installation took place amid changes to the LACMA campus, which included a new building, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, and two new open spaces. The sculpture dominates one of them, a forecourt located between Wilshire Boulevard and LACMA's entry pavilion. Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne gave the arrangement a mixed review, describing Urban Light as "a kind of pop temple, deftly straddling the lines between art and architecture and between seriousness and irony. It's also a joy to walk through. But there's no getting around the fact that it turns what might have been an actual public square along Wilshire—a space defined from day to day by the people using it—into an outdoor room for one sizable and very insistent piece of art." Hawthorne also argued that Urban Light was the first of four large-scale installations at LACMA in which Govan has challenged and undermined "the polite axial symmetry of the master plan he inherited from" architect Renzo Piano and his patrons. Those installations also include Tony Smith's black aluminum sculpture, called "Smoke", that fills the atrium of the Ahmanson Building, a palm garden by Robert Irwin installed along the edge of the Resnick Pavilion, and, just north, Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass". Another Chris Burden work, the kinetic sculpture Metropolis II, is located in a building adjacent to Urban Light in LACMA's Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

Since its 2008 installation, Urban Light has become a much photographed location, leading some observers to declare the work a Los Angeles icon. Among the first filmmakers to incorporate the installation in a motion picture was director Ivan Reitman, who used the location for a scene in his film No Strings Attached. He called the artwork "an extraordinary beacon" that "lights up a desperate part of Wilshire that felt almost abandoned at night." Urban Light was featured in the Tori Amos video Maybe California and the film Valentine's Day. The work appeared in a Guinness commercial and in a Vanity Fair article featuring cast members of the television series Glee, as well as in numerous amateur photos posted online. LACMA itself has featured the work as part of its own promotional efforts, including a 3D public service announcement preceding the film "Megamind." In 2014, the sculpture was used in a dance scene in VH1's Hit the Floor. - Wikipedia. It was also used in the TV show "American Horror Story: Hotel."
LACMA has its roots in the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art, established in 1910 in Exposition Park. In 1961, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was established as a separate, art-focused institution. In 1965, the fledgling institution opened to the public in its new Wilshire Boulevard location, with the permanent collection in the Ahmanson Building, special exhibitions in the Hammer Building, and the 600-seat Bing Theater for public programs. Over several decades, the campus and the collection have grown considerably. The Anderson Building (renamed the Art of the Americas building in 2007) opened in 1986 to house modern and contemporary art. In 1988, Bruce Goff's innovative Pavilion for Japanese Art opened at the east end of campus. In 1994, the museum acquired the May Company department store building at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, now known as LACMA West.Most recently, the Transformation project revitalized the western half of the campus with a collection of buildings designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. These include the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a three-story 60,000 square foot space for the exhibition of postwar art that opened in 2008. In fall of 2010, the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion opened to the public, providing the largest purpose-built, naturally lit, open-plan museum space in the world, with a rotating selection of major exhibitions. Ray's restaurant and Stark Bar opened in 2011, invigorating the central BP Pavilion near Chris Burden's iconic Urban Light.The LACMA campus continues to evolve in order to present an encyclopedic collection of art, special exhibitions, and music, film and educational programs.

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Reviewed by
Anna Hider

  • Blogger
  • 1,275 Reviews
  • 413 Helpful
February 06, 2015
Rated 4.0

Really cool place! Even walking around outside, you can see all kinds of cool sculptures. Inside, there's so much different stuff that anyone will find something to interest them.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Todd Mowbray

  • Road Warrior
  • 187 Reviews
  • 142 Helpful
November 03, 2014
Rated 4.0

I love LACMA. Tons of incredible works of art. Always a great variation of artists on exhibits throughout the year and very family-friendly with assorted art work shops for the kids. If you are an LA county resident with ID, you can get in for free after 5 PM and the second Tuesday of every month is free! Do it!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Nancy Sewell

  • 1,228 Reviews
  • 142 Helpful
January 17, 2017

The Rain Room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is worth experiencing. You can walk, sing or dance in a room that’s pouring down rain and stay nice and dry the entire time as the rain falls down all around you.

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Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 30, 2016
Rated 4.0

Mix culture exhibition. Love it all the family.

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Reviewed by
Natalie Akers

  • Road Warrior
  • 371 Reviews
  • 113 Helpful
March 31, 2016
Rated 5.0

There's so much to do in LA that it took my 4th or 5th visit before I made it to the LACMA. I shoulda gone sooner - it's so epic and massive. There is literally an exhibit for every genre lover. I couldn't believe the wealth of big names I (pretty crass art appreciator) could recognize and the size of areas devoted to contemporary sculpture. So impressive with plenty of photo ops if you're into that. It's directly next to La Brea Tar Pits too so if you want to do a day of engaging museums definitely hit them both. Pro tip: the Counter (DELISH burgers) is next door. Hold out for a burger and a shake and make it the best day ever.

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, California
90036 USA


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  • Fri: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm
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