Among other cultural aspects of this great city, public art and sculptures truly make a city come alive to both its visitors and its residents. Since the inception of the Department of Cultural Affairs Public Arts Division in 1989, the City of Los Angeles has commissioned more than 150 artworks in public places from Hollywood to Santa Monica. We’ve compiled a list of the top spots to visit if you’re looking for a little artistic influence and culture. This far-from-exhaustive glimpse into the city’s public art scene is just a drop in the bucket though; for more art on display check out “Urban Surprises: A Guide to Public Art in Los Angeles” available at your local library.
905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
The sculpture, which began as a collection of original Los Angeles county cast iron street lamps, has become a Los Angeles icon since its opening in 2008. Sculptor Chris Burden has included over 200 of the street lamps, which range in size from 20-30 feet, all painted a uniform grey, in the outdoor sculpture adjacent to the Los Angeles County of Museum of Art. Urban Light is available for viewing without admission to the museum, but do take a peek inside for more amazing sculptures on display. This art installation makes for a perfect spot to take photos as well.
Chas Stainless Steel, Mark Thompsons Airplane Parts, About 1000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, Gagosians Beverly Hills Space
Museum of Contemporary Art
250 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The mammoth structure with an equally mammoth name, Nancy Rubin’s Chas Stainless Steel, Mark Thompsons Airplane Parts, About 1000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, Gagosians Beverly Hills Space at MOCA, was installed as an outdoor feature at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2001. The sculpture, made of all the parts mentioned in its name including stainless steel wire, airplane parts and more, is one of Rubin’s largest sculptures made of repurposed, recycled, and found objects, spanning over 54 feet. The statue is visible from the street and is available for viewing without museum admission.
Bank of America Plaza
333 S. Hope St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Commissioned by the Community Development Agency in 1973 for 250,000, Four Arches, located in Bank of America Plaza downtown, was fabricated out of carbon plate steel and painted “Calder” red, named for the sculptor of the project: Alexander Calder. Standing over 45 feet tall, the statue is an homage to the work Calder did with his architect father as a child.
Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith
Riverside Dr. & Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
In addition to the iconic Hollywood sign that also calls Griffith Park home, the Park also boasts other great sculptures. While there, be sure to check out the Griffith Jenkins Griffith statue at the Riverside Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard entrance to the park. Sculptor Jonathan Bickart created this larger than life statue of the park’s namesake and it is a gift of the Griffith Trust. Additional Griffith Park statues include the must-see Astronomer’s Monument, busts of Lief Ericson and James Dean, as well as The Spirit of C.C.C., located in Travel Town.
University Park Campus
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089
A visit to the USC Campus and Exposition Park wouldn’t be complete without seeing the iconic ‘Tommy Trojan’ statue, otherwise known as the Trojan Shrine. As one of the most recognizable statues in collegiate pride, this life-size bronze statue of the Trojan warrior stands tall in the center of campus at the University of Southern California. In addition to Tommy Trojan, dedicated in 1930 by sculptor Roger Noble Burnham, additional statues include Traveler, numerous statues and sculpture reliefs on the outside of Bovard Hall (including John Wesley, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt) and the Gwynn Wilson Building, numerous busts, and an entire outdoor sculpture garden at Anna Bing Arnold Plaza.
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
The La Brea Tar Pits may boast a wide assortment of actual fossils and excavated creatures from the LA Ice Age more than 40,000 years ago, but the Lake Pit, located along Wilshire Boulevard, also boasts numerous life-size fiberglass sculptures of mammoths and an American mastodon. Built in 1968 by Howard Ball, the Columbian Mammoth sculptures help bring the history of the museum to life inspiring a longer look inside. A stunning sculpture of two fighting saber tooth tigers is also located on the grounds. Make sure to take a visit inside the Page Museum, where you’ll find incredibly interesting exhibits of other fossils that were excavated and found on this very site.
Santa Monica Place
315 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Located along the outside wall of the upscale Santa Monica Place shopping center facing Colorado Boulevard, Cradle is a unique public sculpture commissioned by the City of Santa Monica and created by the Ball Nogues Studio. The statue consists of numerous polished stainless steel spheres that evoke unique emotions depending on your perspective from either across the street or directly underneath.