Pacific Pulse

No longer a one-industry town, Los Angeles is blossoming like never before into a dynamic, cross-cultural Mecca for the art, architecture, creative, culinary, design, media, music, and tech industries. The cadence of the city, defined by its undulating landscapes and sprawl, weaves a unique new narrative, pacing how its inhabitants and visitors experience everything. This new shift in the cultural dynamics is drawing more people to the city…and may be a contributing factor to the rise of home values.

On the west side, there has been such an explosion of creative innovators and pioneers in the tech industry, with the likes of Snapchat and Google acquiring massive spaces in Venice and Mar Vista, the still-bohemian neighborhoods are referred to as “Silicon Beach”. Meanwhile, once-quiet Downtown has seen an unprecedented amount of development: its arts district is bubbling, with industrial spaces rapidly being converted into art galleries and other cultural institutions.

For instance, Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth last year opened downtown in a 116,000 square foot Annabelle Selldorf-designed and lightly restored, deconstructionist chic conversion of a former flour mill.

And more recently, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, by acclaimed Tadao Ando trained architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who in other parts of town, this past year, completed the Marciano Art Foundation in a former Masonic Temple in Hancock Park and Christie’s in Beverly Hills.

Just the other day, Yantrasast, dressed in his signature one piece mechanic suit, commented, “If you hold a Eurocentric worldview, Los Angeles is that place at the water’s edge, lax yet experimental; but if you adopt a view with the whole world – including Asia and all of Americas – into account, then Los Angeles is that octopus hub center of 21st century culture.”

While so much of the art world is becoming ever-more homogenized, with ubiquitous name brand artists, championed by hedge fund managers and similarly strategic patrons, Los Angeles has gone in the opposite direction this past winter with it’s second “Pacific Standard Time” program. Led by the Getty Center & Museum (who financed $16 million for it), the program spanned over 70 cultural institutions which had exhibitions under the title “PST: LA/LA”, focusing on Latin American art in LA.

The program was inaugurated at the iconic Richard Meier-designed modernist hilltop compound that is the home of the Getty Museum, and attended by museum directors, collectors, and artists from around the world. There were pavilions set up with cuisine from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, coupled with Latin American singers and performers. It was a feast for all senses. While wondering through the marvelous mise en scene, I bumped into a long-time curator who commented “I have never seen anything like this at the Getty.”

At the epicenter of this scene, perhaps geographically as well as symbolically, lies the inimitable Hammer Museum. At the director’s reception of the recent scholarly and sensational “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985,” over 60 of the artists travelled from Latin America to attend the opening to see their work celebrated. The exhibition was alive and pulsating with fresh insight on important but all too often forgotten contributions of women artists. “There is a definite beat to this survey of works which carries the viewer across different Latin American countries through the eyes and experiences of some of their most outstanding and outspoken artists,” remarked Hammer Senior Curator, Dr. Allegra Pesenti.

Captains of industry, fashion designers, filmmakers, writers, and tech moguls mingled feverishly, while performance dancers swooped through the Hammer’s courtyard. The energy was contagious, and spirits soared, like hot air balloons rising out of the Westwood industrial complex. Before exiting, I chatted with a snooty British museum director who sneered, “I did not use to like Los Angeles. Now I do.”

As esteemed filmmaker Laura Bickford commented whilst standing next to a Donald Judd sculpture a few nights later at Mexican collector Eugenio Lopez midcentury modern Trousdale compound, “London, New York, Los Angeles: it’s the new Tri State area.”

Fitting, from the producer of that quintessential film of exits and entrances in the lives of cities, Traffic.

Written by: Farhad Farman

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Photo Credits: Hauser & Wirth photo:, ICA photos: facade:, interior:, people in front of installation:, Getty photos: Standard and montage PST photos:, Getty facade:, Hammer photos: facade:, interior:, installation:, Dr. Allegra Pesenti:

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