Hollywood Is L.A.'s Hot New Art Neighborhood

Regen Projects Gallery - H 2012
courtesy, Regen Projects, Los Angeles - photography by Christopher Norman

An influx of galleries, including blue-chip Regen Projects, is opening in the area, bringing wealthy collectors and big-name artists west of Highland.

The Los Angeles art scene seems to undergo a seismic shift every few years, with Culver City most recently emerging as the city's gallery epicenter. Now it appears the tide is shifting, with an influx of high-powered galleries heading to Hollywood.

Gallerists Shaun Caley Regen and Perry Rubenstein have recently moved in, and Michael Kohn just purchased a new gallery space. They’re just a few of many.

Regen's gallery, Regen Projects -- known for showing such internationally acclaimed artists as Catherine Opie, Wolfgang Tillmans, Glenn Ligon and Matthew Barney -- long has been located in West Hollywood. So all eyes were on her when she relocated to 6750 Santa Monica Blvd.

Its second exhibition at this new location, Abraham Cruzvillegas’ “Autodestrección 1,” tells the story of a Mexican jazz musician and marks Cruzvillegas’ first show with the gallery. It will run through Dec. 22.

“When I moved here, everyone said you could never have a gallery east of La Cienega,” Regen said. “Now it just feels like Hollywood is a new, exciting, uncharted territory.”

It's uncharted territory no longer. Regen jumped at the opportunity to work with architect Michael Maltzan to design the 20,000-square-foot building just off of the corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

“We wanted the space to be as flexible as possible,” Regen said of the building’s design. “We wanted really incredible light.”

The building offers indoor and outdoor spaces and room for large-scale artworks: The ground floor has 4,000 square feet of top-lit exhibition space, which can be adjusted to create smaller viewing spaces within a larger lobby. The upper level offers a 4,000-square-foot outdoor sculpture deck with a view of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Park Observatory. The building is covered in a white, illustrious plaster, giving it a unique and identifiable look.

Rubenstein, on the other hand, made an even bigger leap from New York to Los Angeles to open his gallery out west. 

“Even the most chauvinistic New Yorker -- I was one -- had to acknowledge that the creative centers had decentralized,” Rubenstein quipped.

Rubenstein fell for Hollywood as well.

The Perry Rubenstein Gallery, which has been open since late summer, is located at 1215 N. Highland Ave. The gallery is showing the late Mike Kelley’s “Deodorized Central Mass With Satellites” through Dec. 15.

The appeal for the move came in large part from the city’s explosive development as a major international art epicenter over the past decade.

“I don’t think there is one center, but I definitely think that Los Angeles is arguably the largest creative community outside of Berlin,” Rubenstein said. “And given its diversity between technology, entertainment and design, and the visual arts, it is the largest. It’s a very exciting place to be, and it feels like there’s still a lot of history to be written. We’re excited to be part of that story.”

And, yes, there is the glamour. “It’s just flat-out sexier to be in Hollywood than it is to be anywhere else,” he admitted.

The 7,200-square-foot building was designed by wHY Architecture, co-founded by Kulapat Yantrasast. Brian Kenworthy was the project architect and Quinlin Messenger the project designer. The building has 15-foot ceilings and is divided into two sections -- the East and West galleries -- so that two shows can run concurrently.

For Kohn, the appeal was also in Hollywood’s on-the-rise status. Kohn’s focus is on the intersection of contemporary art and the greater scheme of art history. The Michael Kohn Gallery, long located on Beverly Boulevard, has exhibited the works of Andy Warhol (during his lifetime), Richard Tuttle and Peter Halley, among many others. The Beverly Boulevard gallery space is still open to the public and is currently showing a group exhibition, “Into the Mystic,” which closes Jan. 26.

He recently purchased a 10,000-square-foot gallery space at 1227 N. Highland. The property, designed by Lester Tobias (a disciple of Frank Gehry), has 22-foot ceilings and a gigantic glass facade. It’s due to open next summer.

“The Hollywood art scene is still in its infancy, but I expect it will continue to grow for years to come,” Kohn said.  “It’s a natural progression as far as art and the city are concerned.  Galleries need a lot of space, more than most small businesses, and as inexpensively as possible. Yet they need to be located in urban areas, relatively close to where their patrons live. Works of art exist and respond well to a metropolitan environment where the viewer can both relate to the artwork as well as use it as a respite.”

These three galleries join a group of existing art spaces­ -- including the Michael Benevento Gallery as well as Overduin and Kite -- that have opened in recent years in Hollywood on or near Sunset Boulevard. There also is talk that downtown L.A. gallerist Thomas Solomon is moving to the area.

Kohn believes this trend will continue. “I do expect more galleries to open in Hollywood, and I expect them to start moving to the streets east of Highland,” he said. “There's no reason why great spaces won't be built on Cahuenga and Vine, re-energizing this part of Hollywood. It's been 50 years since any major developments have occurred in this area, and the time is now.”

Rubenstein added: “People will go where the art is, and if there are great programs and great galleries, there will be collectors who will follow that. The fact that we’re a little east is of no concern whatsoever.”