Exploring museums and their grounds is a great first foray back after over a year of lockdown. We took a look at the most popular museums in the Los Angeles area, their reopening plans and new, noteworthy exhibits. Fair warning: you’ll need to reserve in advance for most institutions, though some of these restrictions may loosen up by the end of June. Let’s face it – just prowling around the copious outdoor spaces will feel (almost) like a vacation, and taking in some new sights and sounds is good for the soul.
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
As of April 1, 2021, LACMA is allowing for a limited capacity of visitors that purchase tickets online in advance. A few main buildings are closed due to construction that aims to be done in 2024; that’s a story in itself, but you might getting a glimpse of history-in-the-making as the construction progresses. There are limited exhibits open to the public, though Levitated Mass is always fun to see (the giant rock). LACMA has a new collaboration with the folks at Snap that offers augmented reality glimpses of city history at various locations around town. One noteworthy exhibit on view through September is “Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera”. Vera Lutter is artist in residence at LACMA whose work examines the architecture of the museum’s campus created using the camera obscura. On view through early July is a large exhibit of the work of Yoshitomo Nara. Kids love Metropolis by Chris Burden – a permanent exhibit of tiny cars whizzing around a make-believe city – time your visit to coincide when the cars are in action. LACMA has done terrific programming during COVID and continues their online Art Camp for kids.
Skirball Cultural Center
With a ticket reserved in advance, the public can now visit the Skirball Cultural Center for “Ai Weiwei: Trace” and, specifically for families, the “Noah’s Outdoor Explorers Program” opens with limited capacity on June 15. The popular indoor Noah’s Ark is being updated and will be open soon (sign up to be notified when this popular exhibit opens). Ai Weiwei’s LEGO® brick portraits are powerful – here is our review of the show – the stories of 83 pro-free speech activists provide an opportunity to discuss the power of one voice and the artist’s remarkable life. the Skirball’s Zeidler’s Café is open for outdoor dining and a smaller venue offers pick-up sandwiches and drinks.
MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles)
Starting June 3, MOCA will be open with advance free reservations available. Among other exhibits, MOCA is featuring “Bill and Coo at Moca’s Nest”, an outdoor sculpture installation by Los Angeles-based artist Larry Bell. The work is created with large panels of four different shades and saturations of red glass. MOCA’s collection of modern art is finely tuned and worth a look and the museum sells stylish masks in its excellent gift shop.
The Hammer Museum at UCLA is open for free admission, with reservations highly encouraged; walk-ins are still accommodated. Hammer is open from 11 AM-6 PM, Thursday-Sunday. “Made in L.A. 2020: a version” is currently on display until August 1. The exhibit features work from 30 emergent Los Angeles-based artists and is divided between the Hammer and the Huntington museums. Audrey at the Hammer has closed but Eater LA confirms that Alice Waters will be opening a restaurant here in this location.
The Huntington Gardens outdoor, walkable botanical gardens are a fantastic option for COVID cautious visitors – the network of 14 distinct gardens are truly a highlight in LA, and excellent for family romping. There are two worthy audio tours, and we recommend touring the relatively new Chinese garden with one of these guides. The outdoor cafe are open for visitors with reservations. and the indoor spaces recently opened for visitors featuring more work from the previously mentioned exhibition “Made in L.A. 2020: a version”.
The Broad recently reopened for visitors with reservations, no stand-by line or walk-up reservations permitted. Tickets are sold out through June 13, and the next set of tickets will be released June 9. The museum is featuring some of its usuals artists, such as, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker, and Andy Warhol. The new featured exhibit at the Broad is “Invisible Sun”, available until October. It was developed by a team of artists amidst the pandemic and addresses themes of social justice and racial inequality.
Carla Jay Harris, Sphinx, 2019. Archival pigment print, two panels, 40 x 30 in. each. Courtesy the artist.
CAAM (California African American Museum)
CAAM reopened for visitors May 27, 2021 with 25% capacity. Admission is free, but reservations must be made in advance, with all groups limited to household members only. CAAM is currently showcasing “Sanctuary: Recent Acquisitions to the Permanent Collection”, which features works that explore the African American experience in relation to safety and refuge. The exhibit is available until July 11. For those that admire a variation of mediums, this exhibit does not disappoint, as many of the works include a combination of sculpture and photography. There is also an exhibit about African American debutantes. CAAM has a lively schedule of events and lectures, making it worth your while to get on their mailing list.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is open, requiring advance ticket reservations for admission. The museum is open from 9:30 AM-5:30 PM, and Los Angeles County residents get free admission from 3-5 PM. The Butterfly Pavilion is open through early September, though you will need a timed ticket. And inside, “Rise Up L.A.: A Century of Votes for Women”, is an exhibition featuring the history of female voters and a wall of political buttons collected over the past 100 years.
While members can enter the gardens freely without reservations, the Descanso Gardens are open to the public with made-in-advance reservations. Now blooming in the gardens are modern and heritage roses, summer annuals and perennials, crape, myrtle, and cassia. Indoor buildings at Descanso, such as the historic Boddy House, are closed until further notice. The delightful child-sized “Secret Garden” is fun for the littles (though sadly, the Enchanted Railroad remains closed).
Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum is open Monday and Thursday-Sunday from 12-5 PM. Tickets are available upon walk-in; however reservations are highly encouraged. The tickets are non-transferrable and limit groups to a six-person maximum. The lower-level exhibits, museum store, and theater are currently closed. Two exhibits are on display, “The Swineherd”, a singular painting by Paul Gaugin and “Beyond the World We Know”, a photography collection that explores photography’s subjectivity and rise of abstraction of art.
The Getty Center is now open for visitors with reservations all days of the week besides Monday. The museum is featuring from now until August 15 “Power, Justice, and Tyranny in the Middle Ages”, an installation analyzing medieval power structures. The museum also has many interactive, free online events, such as “Getty Get-Togethers”, which dive into the museum’s collections with the artists themselves. The Getty Villa is also open, with timed ticketing to ensure parking.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is open for the season, offering Shakespeare plays and classes for all ages, al fresco in Topanga Canyon. Staring July 11, you can book “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a fun family outing or “Julius Caesar” for a more adult excursion.