Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Tour Around Gallery Row, LA

LA may not have a center, a heart, but it does have districts with attractive names. Or so some council or committee has, within the past decade, decided.

Hello, I am Giuseppe, and will be your tour guide this afternoon.

It took humor and optimism to name Spring and 7th "Gallery Row." In the case of either the word Gallery or Row, and certainly their marriage, it may take at least another decade before "art" is the first thing that leaps to mind.

Previously, this area belonged to the Shooting Gallery, a hidden, or at least largely ignored network of abandoned buildings, SRO's, and hotels with hourly rates, where guests could meet, mingle, and mainline heroin. Things were served up family style, and children welcome.

Skid Row proper was, and still is, just around the corner.

Today, the area is what you might call, "mixed use."

A thriving commercial district rubs shoulders with the likes of Ansel Adams.

Some galleries seem to have a better business plan

than others

That's all for now. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, and

See you in choich.


  1. I'm already looking forward to the next photo tour.

    The LA Conservancy offers tours of downtown. The tour that visits the Broadway theatres is memorable. At least one, as seen here, serves as a church.

  2. We periodically visit L.A. for our daughter lives there, Westside. We both grew up in various places, areas now more officially designated by district names.

    Outsiders have a vision of the city and the area as a world of Valley Girls and fast-talking, phoney movie-biz agents.

    In going back -- to places I will always generically call 'Downtown' -- I see renovation and I see heavy, heavy Latino re-influence.

    Not 'Mexican' as my parents in the 1950s might have designated, but Central American. Not 'Catholic', as I reflexively assume Latinos are, but a rising 'low church', 'enthusiastic' religiosity ("Jesucristo es el Senor") cried out in new-use movie houses.

    And enough traffic to make driving feel like time-lapse is RT.

    Your posts bring me home. And they also center me in my current age.


  3. Downtown LA is like nowhere else, and as soon as you think you've got a handle on it, it changes. But there is architecture there to love, and always reasons to go back, even if you're not sure what block they're on now.

  4. Oh please, this tour won't be complete without a walk down the 'Furniture and Decorative Arts District.' To be followed by 'Toy District.'

    You think I'm kidding?

  5. I am a sucker for downtown LA shots. I just came back from there this minute! Ate at Philippe's!

  6. Love your tour! And looking forward to the next one.

  7. I saw the Ansel Adams photo exhibit on Spring Street. Very interesting. He donated the collection, which are photos of Los Angeles circa late 1930s, to the L.A. Public Library. I think the library valued the collection at $200.

  8. Wayne, I did see a play in one of the old movie palaces, a couple of years ago. A living theater thing about Mahler.

    TF, thank you for that. We saw Cliftons yesterday -- lots of plywood out front, in some state of renovation.

    P, Ms M, and Anon, the old penthouses would make for an interesting tour.

    Lisa, I know Adams wasn't particularly proud of these photos, but did you have a favorite? I like the Good Humor Man.

  9. I've been meaning to do a photo trip over there myself one of these days. Amazing buildings all around that area.

    Wayne, it's the Million Dollar Theater that once served as a church, but don't know if it still does. Revitalizing old theaters is one of my big passions and there are 13 downtown in various states of decay. It's like junkies, Tee-shirt stores, mobile phone storefronts and galleries are blooming around our own architectural ruins.

    I forget where Cliftons is in relation to these galleries. I haven't been there in 20 years.

  10. I worked downtown when I first moved to LA in 2000 when there was all this buzz about revitalization. I'm not sure it's happened, but, as others have noted, there are some wonderful old buildings. That door we're getting kicked out of is gorgeous.

  11. The gallery district that used to work in before leaving the city, was a reclaimed warehouse district on the waterfront. It was bordered on one side by a polished financial district and on the other three by skid row, complete with needle exchange centres. Art collecting is not for the faint of heart, apparently.

  12. A funny slant on yesterday and STILL today.

  13. How unexpected, I would have thought downtown LA would be spectacular...

  14. The hodge-podge, if I'm getting the right impression, makes me wonder if LA is Detroit + sunshine and hills. Our downtown has some splendid old buildings, but they're usually separated by three or more vacant eyesores.

    There are pedestrians by the Detroit river and its office buildings, and around Wayne State, but that's about it. A year ago, I walked from there (Jefferson Ave) to Comerica Stadium (the Tigers) --about a mile--and except for the Campus Martius park area, I probably saw 5 other humans. Oh, OK, 8.

    A lot of Detroiters are defensive about their city's rep, but I suspect they don't see it the way an outsider does.

    Downtown Cincinnati, by the way, looked alive and well in my visits the past two Junes, except for panhandlers.

  15. If you were here, you'd be home by now; or lying in a gutter bleeding to death.

    CRA loves a district. They usually name them (fill in blank with E/W/N/South) Village

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  17. I hope you ate while you were down there. Italian?

    You probably didn't notice that I reported on the AnselAdams gallery exhibit a few weeks ago on my blog.

    But this blogpost does serve to remind me I have to get down there again this month to cover another gallery.

  18. Hey! I was at the one by the Brewery in east LA!

  19. Susan, I went down to where the swat team is at Lincoln/Loma Alta, and just as I was going to take a picture, my battery died. I'd used up all the juice at the Adams exhibit.

    Carolynn, art takes guts.

    Birdman, indeed. And Paula, I guess it is, in its own way. Or in Banjo's Detroit-ish kind of way.

    PA, now why didn't they use that in the new condo banner?

    CP, I don't miss many of yours, but guess I missed that one. But Kathy didn't, and that's the reason she arranged the trip. "I saw it on Mike's blog," she said.

    M -- you were? And Steve S., too. All LA, all the time.

  20. I worked in downtown LA for many years, including in the heart of skid row. It's constantly evolving and is much better than 20 years ago.

    There's quite a story behind Clifton's Cafeteria. It was started by Clifford Clinton who used a combination of his first and last names for the restaurant. He is a significant figure in the history of Los Angeles. He was a reformer who helped take down the corrupt Mayor Frank Shaw administration. He had a weekly radio show where he uncovered corruption that was found by private investigators he hired. His home was bombed and his prime investigator was nearly killed in a car bomb. Harry Kynet, head of the LAPD intelligence squad was eventually convicted for attempt murder and that was the beginning of the end of the Shaw administration. I used to serve on a non-profit board with Clifford's son, Don, who was a true gentleman.

  21. Mainlining family style, eh? Great fun. But I prefer to stay out of big cities. I'm getting cranky in my dotage. Keep giving me those tours so I remember why I avoid crowded places!

  22. A part of LA I've never seen before :)

  23. DB, we've got to got to capture some of your stories. Really.

    M & K, I could go to some pretty places.

  24. Be careful what you ask for Hiker...DB's got a million of 'em!!!

    Glad we went Hiker!!! It was a fun afternoon...loved the show...loved our walk...loved getting together with you and Tash!!! Thanks for joining me!!!

  25. Good times, good times, Chieftess. And if your driving directions had been less than precise, you would have been my next featured subject.

  26. Go ahead and tell the story about the chieftess and her driving directions. We all want to know the rest of the story.

  27. Well, maybe I will DB, if it stays just between the three of us ... It's a story of wrong turns, bad advice, and redemption.

  28. Love your tour, Karin!
    Great photos too. I would love to know LA.

    PS: I have a dear and lovely blog friend, Naomi Caryl, that live in LA. I visit her blog and she visit mine since 2005. She is a great artist, composer, singer, writer, with an amazing trajectory of life. Times ago she gaves me a wonderful gift, a LP, named SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY which original songs were created by her and many songs sing by her too. She has a wonderful voice!
    I think you would like to visit her blog,

  29. I'm late again, naturally - both with a visit and a post. "See Tash with the same shot" PVDP Friday.
    You sure do a mean tour, you funny, funny gal! I'm coming WITH you next time. Didn't you just love the hat suppliers store front?... I met a homeless guy around the corner at Carl's Jr. - got him lunch, he was so sweet and incredulous.

  30. So many in the LA area treat downtown like it was their now-grown-up little brother with special needs. The whole area is avoided like a family reunion. Sure you still "love" it, but only with a healthy dose of patience, and or some sort of mood-modifier. The more time you spend in downtown the more you'll start to see some of its charms. They're.... gritty, but the charms are there.