In 2015, we went on a Los Angeles murals tour in the downtown art district with the LA Graffiti and Mural tour ($12/person) and our guide, a street artist himself, explained a lot of the backstories of these murals and other Los Angeles street art as we walked several blocks for 2 hours (read this excellent DTLA walking tour to get to know more about LA’s downtown). The tour, though highly recommended, was a bit of a wash for the precise reasons of gentrification that has wiped off many a beautiful piece of work from the walls (what a shame) to give way for bland, grey stoic buildings with newly made windows and doors eating into the wall space. As a result, a lot of the LA murals photos shown on the tour website no longer existed during the tour, thanks to the fleeting nature of this art. Apart from these we did chase a few other murals in Los Angeles (read further below for more info) and were happy to get a glimpse into the famous LA murals/ art scene on our short visit (read this guide to must see things in LA on short trip).
A NOTE ON LOS ANGELES MURALS
I love street art and tend to chase it in any big city where murals are abundant. Based on what I saw on this tour, I felt that there existed is a stark difference between the mural scene in San Francisco and Los Angeles (featured on the most romantic getaways in California list) which has a lot to do with the differences in size and culture of these two metropolises. Los Angeles murals are tucked away in different nooks and corners in the the sprawling city unlike the heavily concentrated street art pockets such as the San Francisco neighborhoods of Mission and Haight.
Although you can find a lot of street art in Los Angeles downtown and along Beverly Blvd (which we had to give a miss due to lack of time), you might drive for miles without seeing murals/street art and suddenly stumble upon something beautiful in an empty parking lot. Unlike murals in San Francisco which have cultural, social or political themes, murals of Los Angeles show the grit of LA streets and allude to the thriving gang-culture symbolically via apparel, tattoos and jewelry.
In recent years, the city has seen a fair share of invited and resident artists taking to the walls with their brushes for commissioned art pieces which has brought in a change in the fortune of street art in Los Angeles, which is often vandalized by tagging or painted over. Permanence aside, downtown Los Angeles murals are stoic, way more boxed up and representative of their “hoods” than SF or NYC murals and often do not exist to drive home a message, but are surreptitiously adorned with undercurrents of LA pride and what it is to live life on the streets of LA.
A great source of Los Angeles murals is the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (which seems pretty up to date). The other one is this website, which led us to Colette Miller’s famous angel wings and the “love” wall. Finally, we found a bunch of murals on the Abbott Kinney Blvd near Venice beach (off the touristy boardwalk) as shown below. In retrospect, we missed a treasure trove of murals at Beverly boulevard (see here), which gives us another reason to revisit LA!
FAMOUS LOS ANGELES STREET ART AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
We did not do any prior research on murals during our LA visit but after the mural tour of DTLA, we got sufficiently excited and decided to hunt out a few more popular murals on our own. The “Angel Wings” by Colette Miller painted in 2014 can be found on the wall of a non-descript liquor store (St. Regis Wine & Liquor, 8401 W. 3rd St in Beverly Grove) and the famous “Love wall” with its flashy orange background can be found in Culver city on 8549 Higuera St.
MURALS OF LOS ANGELES ALONG ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD
Besides DTLA, the other spot where we were pleasantly surprised to find some terrific murals in Los Angeles is Abbot Kinney boulevard leading to the very popular Venice beach. Here are the photos of the murals from our stroll (see below) to inspire you for your next visit.
PARTING THOUGHTS ON LA MURALS
Hope you enjoyed the Los Angeles murals featured on this post that we saw on our DTLA tour as well as on our own when we ventured out to Abbot Kinney boulevard. Murals/street art conform to the non-conformity in the art scene and are the guerrilla movement in art to challenge the status quo of art being for the elite few. What this means is that they are also vulnerable, being in public places, and ephemeral and thus can be preserved only through our clicks. The Los Angeles street art scene, much like the desert flower, is thriving in parts amidst the grit and violence and is worth checking out to get a feel of the city, its culture and its heritage. If you are looking for more LA inspiration, read this guide to 9 best places to eat in LA. For more mural fix, read my post on Austin murals.
OTHER INSPIRING LA POSTS
If you are looking for that perfect LA itinerary, look no further than this list of where to get a Disney MaxPass for that magical tour of Disneyland, how to attend a red carpet event in LA, 20 must do attractions in Los Angeles , 8 free things to do in Los Angeles and the top 10 things to do in LA over 5 days. If you have time this weekend getaways from Los Angeles post is an excellent one to discover more of Southern California, with the beautiful Big Bear Lake or the Danish city Solvang which is a must visit.