Wasn't Los Angeles Always Unique?
Nobody really knows when Los Angeles started to be hip again. Did it begin when star architect Frank Gehry finally gave the city a landmark it could be proud of in the form of the Walt Disney Concert Hall? Before that, there had just been the misaligned white letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign up in the hills above the city – and while the whole world might recognise it, it’s not even lit up at night. Plus it’s been looking increasingly antiquated ever since American TV series have become so good that Hollywood can only rarely manage to hold its own against them.
Was it when Google followed the example of Facebook and YouTube and decided to open an office in Venice? And to locate it not just anywhere, but in Frank Gehry’s renowned Binoculars Building in order to make it plain that even techies have a sense of culture. Or when the erstwhile hippie hub suddenly became flooded with start-up companies and the stores on Abbott Kinney Boulevard, Venice’s main drag, suddenly started selling cashmere T-shirts and handblown wineglasses instead of flip-flops and surf boards? Did it help that chef Nancy Silverton, long a celebrated figure in LA, received the USA’s Outstanding Chef Award two years ago? Or was the deciding factor the increasing number of artists and gallery owners who now live in Downtown Los Angeles, making the city of interest to art lovers who had previously looked no further westward than New York?
DTLA AND SILICON BEACH
We believe it was a combination of all the above: an unplanned boom simultaneously occurring in a variety of areas which has made Los Angeles immensely attractive and thus a magnet to even more artists, chefs, investors and visitors. Both native Angelenos and incomers who have lived here for decades have been somewhat surprised by the development. The once ailing area of Downtown Los Angeles has been rebranded as DTLA and is virtually unrecognisable.
The food vendors in Grand Central Market alone make a trip to DTLA worthwhile. Referred to by many as Silicon Beach, Venice is abuzz with activity – but rents and boutique prices are exploding. The fact you can now grab lunch from the food trucks parked outside every large office block at midday doubtless represents culinary progress when compared with the sandwiches of yore. But despite all this, wasn’t Los Angeles always unique?
Nowhere else could you lie on the beach in your swimsuit and soak up the rays on a Sunday in January while enjoying a view of snow-capped mountains in the distance. Or go skiing in Big Bear. Or follow in the footsteps of the Rat Pack and play golf in the desert oasis of Palm Springs. “LA has it all,” is what they used to say here years ago.
Art is everywhere
Last September, The Broad opened its doors right next to Gehry’s Disney Hall: a private museum of contemporary art funded by billionaire Eli Broad. In March, the internationally acclaimed Hauser & Wirth gallery, in collaboration with Paul Schimmel, ex-curator of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles), opened a sprawling new gallery complex in DTLA that already had critics raving even before its inauguration. Almost exactly between these two openings, the huge old Petersen Automotive Museum presented its new face to the world.
Admittedly, this is a monument of strident taste: undulating curves of sheet metal bulge boldly out above its bright red façade creating what one critic compared to a crushed can of Red Bull. Everyone found it hideous, but hardly anyone could really get seriously up in arms about it. After all, how is a city that is constructed around the automobile going to dedicate to that vehicle a museum which is discreet? One of the city’s most joyous characteristics is that it has never attempted to appear genteel, despite the fact that this is precisely what it also is – among all its many other attributes.
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