by Caroline Roux, The Telegraph, November 9, 2017
When the team in charge of Pacific Standard Time (PST) – a huge event offering 70 art exhibitions all around the Los Angeles area – a few years ago started looking for a theme for its 2017 edition, the relationship between Los Angeles, its Latino communities and Latin America felt like a good a line of enquiry. It delivered its own snappy title, too: LA/LA, as in Los Angeles/Latin America. But by the time it opened in September, with the country’s controversial new president in place, it could hardly have been more appropriate.
“I don’t think we ever imagined quite how relevant it would become,” says Deborah Marrow, the director of the Getty Foundation, which has co-funded and -organised this proliferation of art offerings. “We have something to thank Trump for – he did our marketing for us!”
But there’s even more to the Los Angeles art scene than PST. New commercial galleries have gradually come to town. A beautiful version of the respected German business Sprueth Magers has taken up residency in an elegant 1960s building opposite the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (itself undergoing a staggering Peter Zumthor-designed reworking). A real Art District has sprung up, taking the lead from Mara McCarthy’s The Box, which took over the former industrial space of fashion designer Michèle Lamy in 2007. (Mara is the daughter of radical LA artist Paul McCarthy, Lamy the partner of fashion designer Rick Owens.)
Ever since the Broad museum opened two years ago in Downtown, locals have happily queued for 90 minutes to gain entry to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, an immersive world of endless reflection and top-level Instagramability. When the first tickets for a survey show of the Japanese artist’s work (on until January 1) went on sale in September, they sold out in mere minutes. “People are incredibly engaged here, we’re feeding a real need, and a deep interest,” says Graham Steele, senior director of Hauser & Wirth, the leading commercial art gallery–with spaces in Zurich, London, Somerset and New York – that last year gambled on opening a radically new kind of operation near The Box. The LA variant combine s food, craft shopping and exhibitions. “It’s a completely different model,” says Steele. “The idea is to come, have dinner, buy a book, then see a museum-quality show.”
The Art District, which spreads out around E 3rd Street, is walkable, amenable, and expanding. The LA Institute of Contemporary Art has a home nearby – and has given a room over to fashion designer Christina Kim, of the label Dosa, who has decorated its walls with delicate fabrics and made artifacts for sale. By next spring both Dover Street Market – the fashionista favourite run by Comme des Garçons – and Spring Studios (top-level photographic facilities and a members’ club) will have opened nearby. The New York label Phillip Lim has moved to the area, with a shop mixing fashion and design.
In LA, where the movie business is still the business, other arts are happy to mingle. At the ultra-high-end Just One Eye, which occupies Howard Hawks’ old art deco studio off the beaten track in Hollywood, owner Paola Russo shows her not-insignificant art collection (major works include life-size sculptures by the manga-inspired Takashi Murakami) alongside labels such as Alexandre Vauthier and the hard-to-find Beau Souci. What is more, the city that was once considered a fashion desert is becoming a destination and having a marked effect on current trends. “It’s the influence of celebrity culture,” says Charles Worthington, part of the team at Just One Eye. “If Hailey Baldwin or Kylie Jenner wears something , it matters more than any advertisement or magazine shoot. LA is central to the market now.” Burberry took notice and hosted its most lavish event to date at Griffith Observatory in 2015, and in 2016 Louis Vuitton hired 200 limos to ferry guests to a show in Palm Springs. This October, Dior defied logistics by staging a star-dusted event in the Santa Monica mountains. When Haider Ackermann took over as creative director at the classic menswear brand Berluti recently, he opted to open his first store in Beverly Hills.
“For a long time, much of high fashion’s inspiration has come from LA street style – from rock and roll style at Saint Laurent to athleisure to hippy dresses,” says Vincent, a young stylist I’m introduced to fresh from a shoot with January Jones. “It’s only now that the city’s gaining credibility.” In truth, designers from Europe’s major fashion houses have been scavenging the huge reserves in the city’s many excellent vintage stores for “research ” samples for years. But now the secret is out.
The Los Angeles lowdown: where to stay, shop, eat and drink
Chateau Marmont, aka The Chateau, is the site of Hollywood legend, and still a haven of delight. As a civilian, you are welcome int o its celebrity-infested water – non-residents can access the gorgeous terrace – but mind your manners. Taking photos or tweeting will not be tolerated. The cottages, at $685 - $785 (£520-£600) a night – with a bedroom, living room and kitchen around the oval pool – are definitely shabby chic. Room 64 offers two bedrooms and marble hallways.
The Montage is the major hotel in the shopping heartland of Beverly Hills – Rodeo Drive is on the doorstep. The décor here is classic American beige. The American-fare restaurant, Georgie, is led by author and TV personality chef Geoffrey Zakarian. The hotel also boasts a secret bar, the £10 (with a $50 minimum spend per person), which specialises in Macallan single malt.
The lunch stops
It would be quite wrong to visit LA without stopping by the blushing-pink Hotel Bel-Air (still glowing, five years after its refurb) in its uniquely bucolic setting . Lunch atWolfgang Puck’s indoor-outdoor restaurant is the perfect excuse: it’s on the way to the Getty, too .
Manuela is one of the hottest spots in town and part of the Hauser & Wirth campus that includes art galleries and a store selling books and crafts. Go for an entirely vegetarian meal (roasted cauliflower, crudités, bitter greens Caesar salad) or the heartier possibilities of pulled-pork sandwiches and deer burgers.
The dinner venues
Some of the best seafood in town is served at Michael Cimarusti’s Providence, a low-key dining room on Melrose Avenue filled with gentle , grey-suited waiters and dedicated foodies. Spanner crab, snapper sashimi, salt-roasted spot prawns… It’s tasting menus only, but of the sort that create happiness rather than a sense of being taken hostage by a chef’s ego.
Nothing is more LA than Gracias Madre, a madly chic Mexican serving exclusively vegetarian and vegan dishes. Wash down a coconut ceviche with a kiwi-fruit margarita.
Patina is a useful Downtown dining spot, on the ground floor of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and opposite the Broad museum. In the spirit of unbridled fusion, it roams around Japan, Mexico and South California – squash-blossom tempura, cod with poblano peppers – but stylishly.
The Four Seasons Windows Lounge is as plush and expensive as the Four Seasons name suggests, but relaxed, too. It’s perhaps due to the huge terrace and the heady cocktails (such as La Condesa – with tequila , mezcal, hibiscus and a Tajín rim), and that there’s no hurry. It doesn’t close till 1am.
Dinner done and set on a last hurrah? Head for the pretty glamour of Perch in Downtown and its twinkly outdoor terrace with superb city views. Or go rock and roll at the luxurious and legendary Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, designed with Mediterranean villas in mind. A music-industry favourite, it should come as no surprise to bump into Courtney Love or John Mayer in its tiny BAR 1200.
The places to see
The jewel in Los Angeles’s cultural crown, The Getty’s elaborate campus on a hill contains four exhibition spaces. Unmissable is Golden Kingdoms (until January 28), a show of incredible artefacts from the ancient tribes of the Americas, dating from 1000BC until the Europeans came along in the 16th century.
The Art District, around E 3rd Street. In one morning you can take in Hauser & Wirth, The Box, The ICA, the Phillip Lim store and the vibe, and all on foot !
Artist-centric and unconventional, the Hammer is a public art gallery with an edge–and an excellent café. The current exhibition, Radical Women (until December 31), focuses on female Latin American artists from 1960 to 1985.
Museum Row on Miracle Mile: Los Angeles County Museum of Art is most fun on a Friday night (open till 8pm) when locals gather in droves in its public piazza for music and food. Next door, see the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures rising from the ground – the Oscar-giving organisation’s first museum, which will include a 1,000-seat cinema. Over the road, Sprueth Magers has a major show o f local hero John Baldessari until December 9.
The places to shop
Just One Eye is an exceptional edit of fashion and art that gets its name from its curatorial process. Paola Russo, who was once creative director at Ann Demeulemeester, takes Polaroids from the fashion shows and selects all the pieces locked in a room on her own. Autocracy at its most effective.
There’s a very Californian mix at Mohawk General Store, a one-stop shop in fashionable Silver Lake. Find everything from top-of-the-range Dries Van Noten for women to the amazing, high-end OAMC streetwear for men, as well as local LA designers.
The treasure house of Los Angeles vintage is Shareen Vintage (1721 N Spring Street): no changing rooms, but endless amazing finds.
Everyone knows Rodeo Drive, but don’t miss South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, full of eclectic shops and fine-dining options.
Pacific Standard Time consists of 70 exhibitions all over the LA area, and runs until the end of January. It promises to leave a city-wide art legacy.
How to get around
While Los Angeles has a burgeoning transport system, cars are still the best way to see the city. Uber works very well here, but for a rather more bespoke service, try Motev, a Tesla-only car service, started up by Robert Gaskill, who used to drive exclusively for Morgan Freeman.
British Airways flies regularly to Los Angeles from £459.