Amidst the sprawling grandeur of Los Angeles are amazing institutions dedicated to showcasing the talents of gay and lesbian artists, such as David Hockney’s Southern California defining Swimming Pool paintings.
From museums to theaters to libraries to outdoor monuments and gardens, there’s no shortage of artistic activities for the creative traveler that take in our distinctive artistic, culture and literary past, present and point to an even greater future.
Check out this list of 11 great places to get your queer art fix in the City of Angels…
Since opening its doors in 1965, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has displayed the work of many prominent artists, including photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and painter Glenn Ligon. LACMA is also home to American painter Thomas Eakins’ iconic homoerotic 1899 oil painting The Wrestlers, as well as drawings by Tom of Finland, and four works by the great David Hockney.
(As an added bonus, check out the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits located next door to LACMA.)
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives
Located on the USC campus, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is the largest collection of LGBT materials in the world. The library houses over two million archival items including periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records, and personal papers. It also offers regularly rotating exhibitions by gay and lesbian artists, as well as talks and other events.
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum
Fashionistas won’t want to miss the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum in downtown L.A. The museum was founded in 1978 and has more than 15,000 objects covering more than 200 years of high fashion history, from 1800 through today.
While you’re in the downtown L.A. area, pop over to the Museum of Contemporary Art. In addition to featuring sculptures and fountains, the museum contains works by Bob Mizer, Tom of Finland, and Mike Kelley, as well as a 2012 exhibit “Fire At The Disco,” which looked at how disco music influenced American culture, particularly the gay lib.
(Bonus: Just across the street from the MoCA is the world famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. The venue is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.)
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza
Located inside the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza is home to the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, which includes two theaters and two gallery spaces. Exhibits at the gallery are always free, and the center’s award-winning theater program has showcased both superstar talents — including Jane Fonda, Coco Peru, Margaret Cho, the Gay Mens Chorus of Los Angeles, and others — as well as world-premiere plays, panel conversations, and more.
Gardenia Supper Club
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Gardenia is the longest-running cabaret supper club in the country. It offers old Hollywood-style entertainment. The venue has played host to a roster of musical performers for over 30 years, from up-and-coming singers to seasoned professionals, including several film and Broadway legends.
Wall-Las Memorias AIDS Monument
Erected in 1993, the Wall-Las Memorias AIDS Monument was the first publicly-funded AIDS monument in the country. It serves as an outdoor cultural landmark honoring those who have been lost to the epidemic. The project’s goal is to “engage the community in a conversation about [the] cultural silence, shame and stigma” about the disease. The monument, which includes a wall of colorful murals and a statute of a Quetzalcoatl serpent, an Aztec symbol for rebirth, is located in beautiful Lincoln Park.
The Huntington Library
The Huntington Library is a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. It features an extensive collection of LGBT books, and its museum has showcased work by a number of important artists, including pioneering gay portrait artist Don Bachardy, the husband of the late great novelist Christopher Isherwood. The 120-acres of sprawling botanical gardens, which include everything from rose gardens to lily ponds, make for a lovely and informative time. Stick around for a while: The Rose Garden Tea Room and Chinese Garden Tea House are simply divine. Seriously, plan to spend an entire day here.
Museum of Tolerance
The Museum of Tolerance is devoted to “challenging visitors to understand all forms of prejudice and discrimination in our world today.” The main exhibits are devoted to the Holocaust, and there are also special exhibits, discussions on same-sex marriage, and screenings of LGBT films.
For over 30 years, Celebration Theatre has been producing award-winning theatre. Located in Hollywood, it was founded in 1982 by gay rights pioneer, Charles Rowland, one of the early forces behind of the Mattachine Society. The theater has served as an incubator Pinafore!, Naked Boys Singing, and, yes, even infamous adult film star Jeff Stryker’s solo show A Sophisticated Evening with Jeff Stryker.
The Hammer Museum’s collection includes everything from 19th-century French masters, to American artists from the 18th to 20th centuries, to sculpture and contemporary art. Over the years, the museum has also displayed the works of many gay artists, including painter James Gobel, filmmaker William E. Jones, cartoonist Larry Johnson, and musician and visual artist Llyn Foulkes.