Known for its provocative, ambitious, and sometimes difficult exhibits, MOCA is L.A.’s only museum focusing solely on art from 1940 to the present. Its 6,800-piece collection—one of the best in the country, including numerous Rothkos, Pollack’s first drip painting, Johns, and dozens of other 20th century artists, as well as challenging work by emerging artists—is spread among three locations.
The imposing red sandstone MOCA Grand Avenue (250 S. Grand Ave btw W 4th and W Gen. Thad Kosciuszko Way; Metro Red Line to Pershing Square.), the main venue, opened “Andy Warhol: Shadows,” the first West Coast showing of all 102 parts of the monumental painting, in September 2014. It also houses the museum’s popular restaurant, Lemonade (open during museum hours; tel. 213/628-0200). The warehouse-like Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo (152 N. Central Ave. (between E. 1st. and E. Temple; Metro Gold Line to Little Tokyo/Arts District) shows the museum’s most interesting rotating exhibitions—it held the largest show of Mark Kelley’s work to date in 2014. With the easiest parking of the three, it’s a good place to start. MOCA Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose Ave. at N. San Vicente, West Hollywood) is an earth-toned cube next to the design center that focuses on contemporary architecture and design. It also has the MOCA store.
MOCA endured six rocky years of financial problems and increasingly sparse programming before new director Philippe Vergne was lured away from New York’s Dia Art Foundation in early 2014. Known for his collaborative and artist-oriented style, he has said MOCA has to be the most innovative museum in the country. He brought in a new chief curator in August, but it will take time to restore the museum to its former prominence. One change he’s considering is reducing admission fees.