How Does the LA Scene Measure Up (Literally) with NYC?

by Hrag Vartanian on August 15, 2012

You know the tired old cliche about LA sprawl? It appears to be true about the city’s art world.

Artist Zach Alan has superimposed Manhattan (highlighting the Chelsea gallery district — 23rd to 34th Streets and Ninth to Eleventh Avenues — in red) to demonstrate how it is virtually impossible to wander to see gallery art in LA, unlike in New York. Each of those location markers indicate a gallery, art nonprofit, museum or space with an art program.

Density is certainly working against LA’s favor in terms of an art scene.

Original LA gallery map via Culver City Gallery Guide

  • Get Hyperallergic in your Inbox!

    Subscribe to our email newsletter. (Daily or Weekly)

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • Yoony Lee

    In terms of what art scene? The uber-commercial one of NYC or the diversity-oriented one of LA? Art sprawl nurtures the nooks and crannies, whether it’s design market of West Hollywood, illustration vernacular in NELA, or blue-chip in Culver City. Should get out more often.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      I guess you don’t know NYC, since the LA scene is certainly not as diverse as the one here. Upper East Side, 57th St, LES, Bushwick, Dumbo (I’m not even half done), or have you never ventured outside Chelsea? It’s funny you’re trying to school someone though. Btw, the map is made by someone in LA.

      • Robert Boyd

        But the map of Manhattan with Chelsea colored in makes the New York scene look more compact than it is. At the very least, he should have superimposed Brooklyn over LA as well.

  • Natalie Hegert

    that LA is sprawling is not a tired old cliche, it’s a fact. So I don’t see why this is much of a shocker. Everybody’s used to driving everywhere anyway, so I don’t think they’re aware of really missing anything when it comes to “wandering to see gallery art”.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      I think most galleries would say that density helps sales (think of the concept of the “arcade,” “mall” or “souk” since people go to buy where there is concentration. I have had LA friends complain that bouncing around openings, like people do in NY, is much harder there. Again, it’s not a question of quality but a question of different art cultures and commercial realities.

      • Natalie Hegert

        Hmm, I kind of doubt if a Chelsea gallery’s foot traffic has much of an effect on its sales. Most people wandering into Pace Gallery probably aren’t buying. In any case, people in LA, in my experience, have less of a problem driving to multiple neighborhoods to go to openings. Consider, on the other hand, if you’re out going to openings in Chelsea and then you suggested to someone, “hey, let’s go check out this other opening. It’s in Queens.” Really, imagine the look on his/her face. That’s not happening. In LA, however, if you’re checking out openings in Culver City, and someone says, hey let’s go to Chinatown, you just get in the car and go. You don’t even think about how far it is. People treat space and distance differently there. But maybe your LA friends have different attitudes than mine. In any case, I totally agree that it’s not an issue of quality, but it’s about different (art) cultures, as you say. But in your article there’s this implication that they suffer for not being able to wander around galleries as much, (ie. a lack of quality of life)… Anyways, I was just disappointed because I thought this article was going to have some actual information in it.

        • Hrag Vartanian

          If you doubt the density argument then perhaps you don’t realize how much business goes on in art fairs. Proximity is a MAJOR factor, ask any small gallery. Also, there is tons of info, but perhaps not what you were specifically looking for.

  • Fabian G. Tabibian

    Hrag, but to your point — the representation of the two scenes is not accurate. The map is comparing Chelsea to all of LA. How about mapping Newark (and rest of NJ), Long Island, Brooklyn, and the Bronx and reveal that the art-sprawl is not limited to LA. Metropolitan NY art scene has been dispersing from a single-central model for a quite a while now.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      I agree, Fabian. But the point I think is more about there are 250+ galleries in that one red square than all of LA. There certainly are other galleries neighborhoods, but the point was one of density. I think it’s an interesting contrast. It’s not a statement about quality.

      • Fabian G. Tabibian

        I understand, but I don’t think the NY art world is as concentrated as it once was and if anything, we are more like the sprawl in LA now. Bushwick and LES is our Chinatown. The remaining galleries in SoHo are our Bergemot Station. PS1 anchors LIC. Yes, the concentration of galleries in Chelsea is way higher than anything in Culver City, but NYC also has way more galleries than LA (We probably have more galleries in LES than all of LA).

  • papertrail prints

    Who cares? We have cars here in LA you know…

    • Hrag Vartanian

      LOL … I like your attitude!

  • Steven Ketchum

    What these maps prove is that it’s a lot easier to get hammered on free wine in New York than LA.

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Alas, no one serves alcohol the way they used to. If LA galleries switch the martinis at openings, I’m moving. #FYI

    • ChristopherM

      Haha – the maps don’t lie. That was one of my observations too.

  • ZackAlan
  • b r

    Wow! Everyone is so bitter. As someone born & raised in LA, I’d love to see even just a single street peppered with more than three spaces dedicated to arts, literature, and indie/community film. We have a lot of awesome spaces here, but nothing concentrated…and there is just something inherently special about walking from place to place, rather than driving. The art walks in Canoga Park and Downtown do make up for the lack, though!

  • Terrence1

    Good post. A response, of sorts, here: Short version- it’s not the sprawl that is the issue, it’s that the areas where galleries do cluster just aren’t big/diverse/mature enough… yet.

  • ZackAlan

    really tho, this attitude of “oh, we just get in our cars and go” is completely – because really? you don’t. you might hit 2/3rds of the galleries in culver city, OR hit half the chinatown galleries, OR hit 6150 wilshire and LACMA, but people here don’t make a day of gallery hopping the way the do in NYC – it’s just too damn inconvenient.

    • ZackAlan

      (* completely annoying)

    • papertrail prints

      So no one does the “long arc” but you, this is essentially what you’re saying. Whats your bank acct number? I’ll transfer some gas money into it for your pains. :) happy driving!

      • ZackAlan

        well, do you? how many galleries do you hit at a go, and do you generally hit multiple areas or just one?

      • ZackAlan

        just glanced at your tumblr – looks like you’re hawking crappy lowbrow prints and basically signed up here to troll. have you ever actually been IN a gallery, beyond the corey helford / merry karnowsky / lebasse projects / copro / giant robot type galleries?because I’m willing to bet that when it comes to the fine art galleries, you wouldn’t know your ass from your elbow.

        • Hrag Vartanian

          Zack, Comments that attack commenters will not be tolerated.

          • Guest

            I’m out. enough with the dmn trolls.

  • Devin Kenny

    This as a ‘piece’ is a little ‘eh’, but as a provocation is awesome. I mean, it’s obvious that LA is more sprawled than NY…I mean, the Census data will confirm it. The only issue is that this article postulates that denser is better, or…bigger is worse? And that’s largely because of the use of an idiomatic expression in a literal sense. We’re talking about length vs. girth? C’mon bro, namaste. Also, I really like that Mr. Vartanian is serious about the moderator game here. Hrag, you’re taking this like it’s a panel! You get mad love on that. Big ups.

Previous post:

Next post: