Thursday, January 7, 2010

wilshire boulevard + orange grove avenue, museum row

Ever notice how most museums around the world are buffered by gathering spaces? Think of the hordes of tourists snapping establishing shots around the square at Paris' Louvre, students pontificating on the steps of the Met in New York, or cafe patrons recovering from the shock of La Guernica in the small square outside Madrid's Reina Sofia. By contrast, LA's museums feel to me like (wait for it) destination affairs, each a simple car ride away — itself a surreal psuedo-indoor affair separated from the outside world — and featuring ample parking. Without a lively transitional gathering space to properly introduce it, the museum is relegated to the trappings of the routine, a trip there being no different logistically from a trip to the mall or movie theater. In other words, as transcendent as the art may be inside, events immediately outside have been standardized to conform to mundane auto ritual.

Then consider the admirable museum cafe. Try as it might, it remains an officially sanctioned affair trapped in a space aloof to any loitering unrelated to commerce. LA museums to me feel like castles of oblivion, surrounded by moats of asphalt and fed by parking lots either distant or underground. And imagine the situation from nearby retail's point of view: separated by five lanes or more, they see no foot traffic — just the castle wall and no crowd to cater to. The only exception I can think of (little help?) is the MOCA satellite in Little Tokyo, which I find nicely guides me back into its old-world surroundings after a thrilling afternoon of artistic revelation. But elsewhere? I often find myself left with no place to go + nothing left to do but return to my vehicle and plan the next destination. See it narrowed!
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About the Photographer

Los Angeles, CA, United States
Writer, designer, and urban planning geek.

Got a location idea or photo submission? Send it to I'll post it to the blog or even run out to shoot it myself.


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