LA Art alternatives: Switch up the Getty gallery for the Weisman

Los Angeles’ arty credentials could fill rambling miles of wallspace, but instead of making a B-line for “scene” favourites why not cut through the cues and the hype for a lesser known spot?

At the Getty, long lines for a possibly underwhelming collection

Two decades after it opened on a hilltop overlooking Los Angeles, the Getty Center remains one of the city’s top cultural institutions. Where else can visitors soak up European paintings, nude mythological sculptures and a re-created, 18th-century Parisian salon while gliding across travertine courtyards with views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains?

The initial hype has quieted, and advance reservations for the $15 (NZ$22) parking spots are no longer required, but lines to get into the free institution in Brentwood still often spill out to Sepulveda Boulevard on weekends and holidays, and the wait for the tram to ferry you up and down the hill can sometimes add an hour each way to the experience. (Walking is an option.)

Once there, the wide-ranging art collection, spread across five pavilions, can be overwhelming to navigate and even seem underwhelming amid the unique gardens and 360-degree views, though few will dispute that the overall experience is a memorable addition to any trip to southern California.

Location: 1200 Getty Center Dr.; 310-440-7300;

At Weisman foundation, 15-person tours and works by famed artists

A calmer – but no less eclectic – art experience can be had at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, which may be the best lesser-known cultural attraction in Los Angeles. Weisman, a successful businessman and philanthropist raised in the city, amassed a remarkable collection of works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Helen Frankenthaler, and more than 400 of them are on display throughout his Mediterranean Revival home just off Sunset Boulevard in Bel Air. He and his first wife began collecting paintings, drawings and sculptures in the 1950s, establishing themselves as premier collectors who boldly combined works by modern masters with up-and-coming pop artists before divorcing and splitting the acquisitions. After Weisman died in 1994, his second wife, art conservator Billie Milam, carried out his desire to turn their private collection into a public museum that offers free weekday tours limited to groups of 15.

Guided 90-minute tours begin in the foyer of the Gordon Kaufmann-designed estate with a striking red, black and yellow abstract painting by Clyfford Still. Nearby stands Duane Hanson’s polyester resin and fibreglass statue, “Florida Shopper,” a prim woman so lifelike you might think she had joined your tour. Willem de Kooning’s “Pink Angels” and Picasso’s “Mother and Son” hang in the living room; works by René Magritte and Max Ernst are in the wood-panelled dining room. Even the floral chintz couches reflect the foundation’s mission, which includes maintaining the estate as it was when the Weismans lived with the art.

Outside, the sizable human and animal sculptures of Fernando Botero dot the landscaped grounds, along with works by George Segal, Henry Moore and Robert Graham. A modern annex houses a 1977 “Reclining Nude” by Roy Lichtenstein and a motorcycle painted by Keith Haring, among other pieces. The tour ends in a garage that includes a limited-edition Toyota, a cheeky reminder of a key subsidiary of the Frederick Weisman Co.: Mid-Atlantic Toyota Distributors, based in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Just like the Getty, the Weisman tour is a quintessential LA experience but with more elbow room and guaranteed parking.

Location: 265 N. Carolwood Dr.; reservation-only tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; 310-277-5321;

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