Downtown L.A. | April 23, 2024

Downtown Los Angeles Places Another Big Bet on the Arts

Downtown Los Angeles is defined by cultural institutions, including the Broad, right, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, left. The Broad is planning an expansion.

For decades the effort to revitalize downtown Los Angeles has been tied to arts projects, from the construction of the midcentury modern Music Center in 1964 to the addition of Frank Gehry’s soaring stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

But the pandemic was tough on downtowns and cultural institutions around the country, and Los Angeles has been no exception.

So it was a major vote of confidence in the area’s continuing promise when the Broad, the popular contemporary art museum that opened across the street from Disney Hall in 2015, announced last month that it was about to begin a $100 million expansion.

The galleries say that they are not giving up on downtown. “They both complement each other,” said Stacen Berg, partner and executive director of Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles, referring to her gallery’s two locations. “West Hollywood is a more trafficked area — we have people pop in multiple times to see one show. Downtown serves as a destination. They make their way to come to us.”

“These neighborhoods are essentially different cities, cultures, identities — like island states in Greece, only instead of being separated by seas, they’re separated by freeways.”

Dealers say downtown offers an unusual degree of physical space and creative freedom. “You simply cannot see these shows anywhere else in L.A. or in New York,” said the dealer Susanne Vielmetter, who in 2019 expanded her downtown gallery and closed her Culver City location.

Hauser’s downtown space, a sprawling complex that includes a bookstore and the popular restaurant Manuela, says it drew 4,000 people to its recent opening for Jason Rhoades, Catherine Goodman and RETROaction (part two).

Young people who live and work in the Arts District contribute to a liveliness among galleries. “People go out downtown,” said Mara McCarthy, the founder of the Box gallery, which presents contemporary art and performances. “They will go see a show over there and get a beer down here and go get ramen.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month that his administration would push to expedite construction of a $2-billion, 7.6-acre residential and commercial development called Fourth & Central, which bills itself as “the New Gateway to DTLA.” 

In another promising development, the Colburn School for music and dance just broke ground on a Gehry-designed expansion to its downtown campus that will include a 1,000-seat concert hall.

And the Los Angeles tourism board has focused its latest — and largest — ad campaign on art and culture. “Most people don’t know that Los Angeles is now home to the most museums and performing arts venues in the country,” said Adam Burke, the board’s president and chief executive.

A few businesses have recently put down roots downtown, including ​​Spotify, which opened a sprawling new campus in the Arts District, and Warner Music Group, which moved into a new five-story building on Santa Fe Avenue. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is planning to offer corporate memberships to try to leverage this new crop of executives, Anne Ellegood, the executive director, said, adding that the museum is “thinking a lot about what we can do to bring artists back to the neighborhood.

“Everyone in the cultural sector,” she said, “has to be thinking about how to ensure that artists stay in L.A.”

Read the Full Article by The New York Times

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