While technically cheaper than New York, Los Angeles is still a prohibitively expensive place to live, especially for a struggling artist. And like New York, Los Angeles is no stranger to gentrification, the scourge of artists around the world. Last week, West herself received a notice that the building in Boyle Heights, just east of the Los Angeles Arts District, where her studio is located, had been sold. All of them.
And West isn't alone. Jay Erker, an artist and curator who has lived in Los Angeles since 1998, recently closed his Los Feliz gallery, Weekend, after the owners sold the building and then kicked them out. So what is Los Angeles' position in the art world? Sonya Roth, CEO of Christie's for the Western Region and Los Angeles, believes that over the past 10 years the city has grown to become “a center of cutting-edge activity and innovation in the art community.” Roth and his colleague Morgan Schoonhoven attributed this to a “radical combination of social and cultural philanthropy.” Venerable institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) seek to be more accessible. And with an already dedicated, albeit much smaller, artistic community (Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Sterling Ruby have long called Los Angeles home; David Hockney moved there in the mid-'60s), not to mention abundant sunlight and a significantly larger space, Los Angeles seems to be, at least on the surface, a place prefabricated replacement.
So important, in fact, that Frieze, one of the world's leading arts organizations, is adding Los Angeles to its art fair circuit, which until now has only presented New York and London. And while Los Angeles may offer some ingredients in that recipe (space, great museums and, for artists who want to live in the suburbs, relatively cheaper rents), in a sprawling city, spontaneity and energy like those in New York are hard to achieve. While not a haven of art, for much of the past half-century Los Angeles has lived in the shadow of its most prestigious rival on the East Coast. Today, the Getty is headquartered in two locations: the Getty Villa in Malibu, which is dedicated to Greek and Roman antiquities, and the Getty Center, in the mountains with views of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles students will find an impressive variety of art offerings and unique communities around every corner. Students can easily visit some of the nation's top art collections, with big names such as the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and J. Part of the reason there are so many artists here is because Los Angeles has an infrastructure for them. Martindale has been closely watching the growth of the Los Angeles art scene for decades, ever since the LA Art Show began 25 years ago.
Getty was perhaps the first to recognize that Los Angeles would define the character of the United States for the next half century. Despite being listed as one of the most expensive cities in the country, Los Angeles remains one of the most attractive and highest-paid cities for artists and designers. For half a century, Los Angeles inspired countless movies and novels, but little in the way of a great painting. If we look at the numbers, the reality is that Los Angeles isn't much more financially viable for an artist.