Public art is virtually everywhere you look in Los Angeles, with outdoor murals, sculptures and architectural embellishments anywhere you're likely to find yourself, but there is also art worth seeing in some rather unusual places that might take a little more effort, or at least the intention to pay attention.
The Los Angeles Metro has invested greatly in beautifying the Metro stations with interesting architecture and public art. You can explore on your own with a guide from their website, or take a guided Metro Art Tour.
The Los Angeles Central Library in Downtown LA stages exhibits in addition to many major permanent art installations, but some of the Los Angeles branch libraries also have great art. A few interesting selections are the glass paintings of fairy tales by Cha-Rie Tang at Exposition Park Library and Nancy Uyemura's magical Peacock Fireplace at Pico Union Library.
Watts Towers and Art Center
The Watts Towers loom over a humble neighborhood in South Los Angeles as a tribute to one man's vision and persistence. The Gaudi-esque open-frame structures tiled in broken bottles and cast off ceramics draws art pilgrims from around the world. The adjacent Art Center also stages temporary exhibits.
When Santa Monica Place was remodeled in 2010, the new Bloomingdale's decorated with over 100 pieces of original art by Santa Monica artists. An art map is available at customer service.
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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has both permanent public art projects and temporary exhibits that you can enjoy on your next flight in or out, or during a layover. Some of the art is beyond airport security, but you can pay a visit to the Theme Building, with it's public art tribute to 9/11 without leaving the ground.
The most stunning collection of art is in the recently remodeled Tom Bradley International Terminal, which you can visit as long as you have a same day ticket coming or going from any terminal at LAX.
Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood is home to the Corita Art Center, a tribute to artist Sister Mary Corita, famous for creating iconic serigraphs in the 1960s and 70s. The gallery, in the high school's administrative office, is open to the public, but serigraph sales require an appointment (323) 450-4650.
Art Walks have been established from Downtown LA to Culver City to Long Beach, and an interesting phenomenon that occurs when a neighborhood with multiple galleries organizes an art walk is that many of the other businesses decide to exhibit art, so beauty salons, barber shops, real estate offices and retail shops also host monthly art exhibits. Often the art stays up for the entire month, so if you're in an arts district, take a peek into neighborhood businesses beyond galleries. Click the headline for a list of Art Walks.
You don't necessarily think of visiting a cemetery for the art, but Forest Lawn Memorial Parks have a world-renowned collection of art and architecture including replicas of Michelangelo's David, Moses and La Pieta, a stained glass re-creation of da Vinci's Last Supper and The Declaration of Independence mosaic in Glendale, the world's largest historical mosaic, The Birth of Liberty at Hollywood Hills, and Long Beach has a mosaic interpretation of the Vatican's classic Raphael fresco Paradise.
Angels Gate Cultural Center is a collection of artists' studios and public art galleries in a former army barracks in San Pedro. It's not something you're likely to stumble upon by accident. You have to go looking for it.