The Broad Museum opened in 2015. Hauser & Wirth opened in 2016. The Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA) found a new home downtown in 2017. And in 2019, the international contemporary art fair Frieze of New York and London is adding a fair in Los Angeles too (a major stamp of approval in the art world).
All that, plus the city’s long-celebrated institutions—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and the Hammer Museum among others—have turned L.A. into a hotspot for art lovers. It doesn’t hurt that celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are elevating the scene too (the actor and environmentalist recently underwrote the cost of installing 309 LED bulbs for LACMA’s beloved outdoor sculpture “Urban Light”). The only trick now is deciding where to direct your gaze first. Here’s our definitive list of what to see and where this year.
Jasper Johns: Something Resembling Truth
The Broad Museum
Feb 10 – May 13, 2018
If you’re a fan of the 87-year-old iconoclast, this exhibition features more than 100 of his works. The selections span his 60-year career, and many have never before exhibited in Los Angeles and rarely travel. The range of graphics, sculptures, and paintings (especially paintings!) trace the evolution of one of the world’s greatest living artists. Don’t miss pieces like his well-known “Painting With Two Balls” (1960), a painting that literally has two golf-ball-sized spheres inserted between canvases—it’s Johns’ tongue-in-cheek take on crafting “ballsy” artwork. And as for the name of the show? It’s something Johns’ has said himself of his work in 2006: “One hopes for something resembling truth, some sense of life, even of grace, to flicker, at least, in the work.” FYI, the Broad will be this exhibition’s only U.S. venue, as well the first major survey of the artist’s work to be shown in L.A.
Mark Bradford. New Works
Hauser & Wirth
February 17 – May 20, 2018
This is L.A.-based artist Mark Bradford’s first gallery exhibition in his hometown in over 15 years. Not that he hasn’t been busy—he’s had major recent solo presentations at the US Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Art District’s Hauser & Wirth gallery has ten new works from Bradford on view, all of which show his explorations into inventive abstract painting as well as delve into sociopolitical subjects like the archetype of the antihero, the influence of the media on contemporary society, black identity, and gender. Look especially for a piece completed just for this exhibition called ‘Moody Blues for Jack Whitten’ (2018), a composition Bradford created in honor of the late Jack Whitten, a fellow abstract painter, and friend.
Harald Szeemann: Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us
Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA)
February 4 – April 22, 2018
Now in its new downtown L.A. home in a 12,700-square-foot industrial building, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles has plenty to share. But what’s causing buzz is a detailed recreation of renowned curator Harald Szeemann’s Grandfather: A Pioneer Like Us, originally staged in his own apartment. It’s a collection of various objects and inventions made or owned by his grandfather, Etienne Szeemann, a noted hairdresser, and includes materials from the Getty Research Institute’s recently acquired Szeemann archive. Kooky? A bit. Cool? Definitely.
Made in L.A. 2018
The Hammer Museum
June 3 – Sept 2, 2018
Want to see who’s who among emerging artists in Los Angeles? Don’t miss Made in L.A. 2018, the fourth iteration of the Hammer’s biennial exhibition, which features 32 L.A.-based artists culled from more than 200 studio visits. There’s textiles, performance, painting, video, sculpture, assemblage, photography, and more on view, with plenty of pieces that focus on of-the-moment topics like the political climate, capitalism, gender fluidity, and violence. There’s site-specific work too, most notably Eamon Ore-Giron’s monumental abstract painting entitled “Angelitos Negros” that addresses racial discrimination, planned for the Hammer’s lobby walls.
David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
April 15 – July 29, 2018
LACMA will host the only United States presentation of artist David Hockney’s portrait series, the majority of which were painted in his Los Angeles studio over a two to three day period. The paintings are all from life, and their creation is something the artist dubs “a 20-hour exposure.” None are commissioned works, instead, everyone featured is someone who the artist has a relationship with, from family members and close friends to curators and art dealers. The exhibition offers a vibrant and intimate view of people with whom he has developed relationships over the past 50 years. This exhibition originated at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and has traveled to Melbourne, Venice, and Bilbao.
Sin Censura: A Mural Remembers L.A.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
March 9 – Aug 18, 2018
Artist Barbara Carrasco’s 80-foot-wide, 43-panel mural, “L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective” — a symbol of free speech — is coming out of storage for the third time in the 30-some years ago that Carrasco painted it for Los Angeles’ bicentennial. It’s well-worth the rare look: It’s a chronological history of Los Angeles, from prehistoric times to the founding of the city in 1781 to 1981.