Art Galleries of Venice and Santa Monica

In LA, Art Is a Shore Thing

When Abbot Kinney acquired a tract of marshy land south of Santa Monica in 1905, he envisioned a playground that would be used as much for art and culture as it would be for seaside recreation. Although the amusement-park feel of the “Venice of America” soon overshadowed any cultural aspirations, today Venice and its surrounding communities are finally making good on Kinney’s dream of his town as an art destination. And the world is noticing.

“There’s been a tectonic shift,” says Elizabeth East, director of the 8,000-square-foot L.A. Louver, which has called North Venice Boulevard its home since 1975. “L.A. is ever more so in the future. The quality of art here is big, artists are now coming here, art students are staying here, rather than leaving after finishing their courses. LA is truly being seen as a key [art] venue worldwide.” And much of that art is coming out of the shore towns of Santa Monica and Venice, where visitors and locals mingle amid works of both budding artists and internationally recognized names.

Santa Monica alone boasts more than 90 art galleries and museums, including Bergamot Station, a complex of several dozen galleries and cultural organizations on the site of an old railroad station that dates back to 1875. The development was supposed to last only until a new rail line was built, but the art center has proved so popular – attracting some 600,000 visitors a year – that the transportation plans have now been rerouted so that Bergamot can continue to grow and flourish in its current location.

At The Artists’ Gallery (TAG), one of Bergamot’s many residents, Kinney would be proud to find the communal spirit of art alive and well. The not-for-profit corporation is owned by its 40 artist members, who share in all business expenses and responsibilities as well as support each other in their careers and work. “We nurture relationships with our artists,” says Director Laura Korman, who also expresses TAG’s support for both emerging artists and new collectors. A monthly rotation of shows ensures that each member exhibits at least once a year, while the informal event Art Spoken Here gives the public a chance to hear about the creative process straight from the artists themselves.

Back in Venice, art galleries thrive on Abbot Kinney’s namesake street. Here, Altered Space showcases a variety of works that vary in form – fine art, jewelry, furniture, and other unique art objects – and which are made by independent artists with a focus on design and craftsmanship. Just down the road at C.A.V.E. Gallery, street and urban arts take center stage at a venue that arose after traveling multi-media events proved so popular that they needed a permanent home. Co-owner Patrick Iaconis cites Venice native Max Neutra (whose website boasts he was born in an apartment next to the Sidewalk Café on Venice’s boardwalk) as a local talent to watch due to the abundance of narrative, energy, and movement in his work.

 

Just near the boardwalk, not far from Neutra’s birth place, L.A. Louver has found a new home in a space designed by Frederick Fisher. In the years since its founding, the gallery has both represented and exhibited artists who have gone on to become household names, including David Hockney and Leon Kossoff. Now, says East, L.A. Louver is also becoming renowned for Rogue Wave, a program that celebrates the artists working in and around our city, artists who are exemplifying the local art spirit and who might otherwise go under-recognized.

Just down the block on Venice Boulevard, L&M Gallery has embarked on the dual mission of curating historical, museum-quality shows alongside a contemporary program, which the gallery directors take pride in as being a unique objective in the Los Angeles art scene. To new collectors, Senior Director Sarah Watson offers the following advice: “The best way to learn how to collect is to start collecting. You will inevitably make mistakes, but they will ultimately inform what you choose to collect in the future.”

 

“Collect art that you love,” says Bryan Chagolla, gallery director of Altered Space, echoing the advice of numerous other gallery professionals. “That will always be the best sign of great art. Great art outlasts popularity.” Abbot Kinney would approve.