MOCA: Top Ten Things To See and Do



Museums of Contemporary Art are usually the edgier, more forward-thinking cousin of a city’s traditional art institutions. Los Angeles, however, has a wealth of great museums and a plethora of of cutting-edge galleries. So how does a museum define itself as modern in such a modern city? It’s not easy, and downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art has had a difficult time finding their place in LA’s art constellation over the past few years. But not for lack of a terrific permanent collection and a couple of neat spaces. So we have put our focus on planning a really fun day for your family at the two campuses of MOCA.

1. Nancy Rubins’ sculpture

MOCA Nancy Rubins

Begin your tour on the Grand Avenue campus, and take note of the large mass of airplane parts that have been assembled into a sculpture outside the museum. Nancy Rubins’ largest piece, with a name that’s even larger than the statue itself (Chas’ Stainless Steel, Mark Thompson’s Airplane Parts, About 1,000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, and Gagosian’s Beverly Hills Space at MOCA,) is pretty wonderful to behold. You can crawl underneath it, and take a long view from afar to try to discern the individual parts of planes and what they may have been used for.

2. Jackson Pollock

MOCA Jackson Pollock

Pollock’s unconventional painting Number 1, 1949 is part of MOCA’s permanent collection and should definitely be an important highlight of your visit. The splatter paint look was achieved by using sticks and meat basters to apply the paint, and gave rise to a method known as Action painting. All kids can relate to the work of this artist, and most learn about him in grade school.

3. A Room of Rothkos

MOCA rothko

Having eight paintings by a well-known favorite artist in one room is a sight not to be missed. The Rothko room at MOCA is to the very right of the exit, and offers a beautiful array of color that kids will certainly be drawn to. Parents will want to sit and meditate before the peaceful color field paintings. It’s truly the jewel in the crown of this institution.

4. Lemonade

MOCA lemonade

Just outside the museum entrance is one of many locations of L.A’s favorite lunch spot. Lemonade has a delicious selection of lemonade (as the name suggests), sandwiches, veggie-filled sides, and desserts. Stop in for a whole meal, or just a snack. The chocolate chip cookies are particularly lethal and will revive many a flagging museum-goer.

5. Museum Store

MOCA store

The MOCA store at the Grand Avenue campus has an excellent selection of colorful and unusual trinkets to help you remember your stay. Books, posters, and toys perfect for kids fill the store. No matter your child’s particular interest, the museum store will definitely have something that catches their eye and the collection of art books is impressive.

6. Teen Night

teen night 2

Teen Night only comes once a year and is the culmination of a year-long program for kids who spend their Saturdays working alongside the museum staff and curators. Conceived and planned by the students (who must apply to participate), the evening is a great way for your high schoolers to spend a pretty cool, totally safe Saturday night. The event is free and features activities like art making and live performances.  Contact the museum for more information about letting your teen apply for the fellowships.

7. Big Family Day and Sunday Studios

MOCA big family day

This arts celebration is a yearly favorite at MOCA. Bring the kids downtown and enjoy an afternoon filled with hands-on studio projects and lively, informative conversations. On selected Sundays (usually the first of each month)  MOCA offers free artist-led workshops in which kids can explore various mediums and their own creativity.

8. The Geffen Contemporary and Pacific Design Center

MOCA's second downtown campus

Visit The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo by parking just across from the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and crossing the street into a secondary, cavernous space for temporary exhibitions. Frank Gehry renovated this space which opened in 1983. Walking around Little Tokyo is a nice addition to a visit on this campus.

9. MOCAtv


The museum is pioneering a new way to engage the public with the work artists who are part of the MOCA family. MOCAtv launched last year, and already experiencing lots of traffic, the website is a resource to use when trying to entice older children to visit the museum and is a good place to spend a little time doing research on the art and artists that make MOCA shine.

10. MOCA Pacific Design Center

MOCA Pacific Design Center

MOCA’s third campus is a small rooftop space on the Pacific Design Center and features revolving exhibits and a nice outpost of the MOCA store.


Past articles about MOCA:

Gas Giant at MOCA Pacific Design Center

Urs Fischer is for Kids!