Admit it. We’ve all made the same excuse. We would go out and get cultured, but it can get expensive—it’s $15 dollars to get into LACMA, and that’s before parking costs. So every once in a while, the museums of LA team up and offer a day where even those drowned in student-loan debt can go stretch their minds. It sure beats sitting at home. This Saturday will be a free-for-all at 20 LA museums, so in order to make the most of it, we’ve done the research for you. Without any more buildup, here are three museums we highly recommend.

The Paley Center for Media

If you’ve ever realized that you just spent more than an hour watching a panel of the actors on you favorite TV show, you have some experience with The Paley Center for Media. So instead of lying in your bed switching between tabs and listening to the behind-the-scenes jokes on Mad Men, hit up the Beverly Hills museum. There you’ll find relics from television shows from the past fifty years and consoles to watch your favorite shows or listen to radio shows. And with more than 90,000 programs, the Paley Center has Netflix beat by a long shot.

Pasadena Museum of California

Science hasn’t proven it yet, but Angelenos know we live in the greatest state in the union. The Pasadena Museum of California celebrates our home and the history behind it. Right now they have three exhibits, most notably Flora Kao: Homestead, a recreation of the shacks our predecessors inhabited in the late ’30s. The walls are projected onto hanging canvas, so the dilapidation and rebuilding over time can be shown. The other current exhibits are Serigrafia and Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martinez in California. Serigrafia highlights Latino culture in California with screen-printed images, while Picturing Mexico shows a Mexican’s experiences in California in the 1920s.

Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA is one of the most well-known museums in the city, and for good reason. Right now it’s hosting two exhibitions in addition to its permanent exhibit, and both—Room to Live and Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland—are worth experiencing. There’s so much to see at MOCA, you could easily get lost for hours, so make sure to give yourself enough time.

For a complete list of Saturday’s free museums, check out MuseumLA’s website.





I first discovered James Turrell when I was 16 and happened across the PBS art21 series that featured Turrell’s Roden Crater. Why any 16 year old would happen across anything PBS is slightly suspect, but apparently I was a bit more of a nerd than I had wanted to believe. In any case, I was hooked. I mean, like, mind. Blown. (It also doesn’t hurt that Turrell looks a bit like a cowboy-slingin’, mad-genius Santa Clause, which, let’s be honest, is a total win in my book.)

So when I heard Turrell was due for a ginormous retrospective at LACMA, I marked my calendar. For those of you who happened to score a ticket to Sunday’s opening, lucky you.

For those of you who didn’t, lucky you.

While the exhibit spans across two of LACMA’s pavilions, I probably spent most of my time outside of them. The Turrell exhibit is more of a waiting game than anything, us unfortunate fans shunned to wait in some kind of never-ending punishment line. Patience is necessary, and fitting, in an ironic way, as Turrell’s work encourages a greater understanding of one’s self through quiet contemplation, meditation, and, well, patience. Perhaps it was Turrell’s silent joke on all of us all along?

Finally inside, the retrospective truly lives up to its word. Featuring 10 or so light installations, holograms, and an entire section devoted to Turrell’s Roden Crater project, the retrospective on the whole is a carefully calibrated, fully immersive, optical mind-fuck. But in the best way possible. “Breathing Light,” one of the most impressive pieces in his collection, extends across 5,000 square feet of the museum and invites patrons to climb a staircase up to a corner-less room flooded with sequences of colors. Special shoe booties included. And let’s not forgot about the Perceptual Cell (Light Reignfall) which requires a signed medical waiver and an emergency contact (told ya it would blow your mind).


Overall, I left the exhibit slightly disoriented, but completely fascinated. LACMA and Turrell don’t disappoint and have created a transformative environment with their cleverly simple use of light and space. If your sense of perception isn’t questioned upon leaving, then you must have been closing your eyes.


“Afrum (White),” 1966


“Breathing Light,” 2013


Roden Crater, Arizona

If long lines have deterred you, then be sure to catch more of Turrell’s incredible light installations and skyscapes at Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery, on view now until July 6th, 2013


*LACMA’s retrospective is complemented by concurrent, independently curated exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)(June 9—September 22, 2013); and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (June 21—September 25, 2013).

 art21: James Turrell