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I have never been to a museum in Los Angeles. Part of me was reluctant to admit that but it’s true. And it must be said. Then again I’ve only been to L.A. once, for a weekend, so spare me the chuckles.

Because of this embarrassing fact and my inability to break away from Brooklyn for the past six months, I reached out to one of my favorite West Coast creatives to answer all my burning questions about L.A.’s exceptional art scene. Enter museum junkie and multi-talented ‘demoiselle Claire Cottrell.

As the design editor for Flavorwire, film director and recent owner of the online book stored Book Stand, Claire is a treasure trove of smarts as she navigates through the many facets of L.A.’s artistic community. BATM recently had the opportunity to chat with Claire about what makes L.A. such an undeniable art capital and why we should all book a ticket to LAX, ASAP.


Claire Cottrell credit Andrew Neuhues

Photo by Andre Neuhues


BATM: Hi Claire! Do you sometimes feels that L.A. may be overlooked as a serious arts and culture center?

It’s our best kept secret.


What’s so special about L.A.? 

Claire: LA is the world’s biggest artist’s colony. From Day 1 California has attracted free spirits, artists and folks who value space, sun and insane natural beauty. Because of that, I think L.A. has always had a thriving art scene. Did I answer the question?


In an unexpected way, yes! With that said, which L.A. artists would you credit for helping to establish L.A. as an art capital?

I’m going to go new gen here and say Miranda July, Mike Mills, Rodarte, Shepard Fairey, Frank Gehry, Geoff McFetridge, Ed Templeton, Doug Aitken and Fritz Haeg. I’m sure I’m forgetting some key people (sorry). Before that, I’d say Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, David Hockney and then Joan Didion did so much for introducing the world to the real California.


What about younger L.A. artists? Which ones should the world be on the look out for?

Anyone doing anything with THISMachine ProjectPublic Fiction (the museum of) and FAMILY.


LA is a vast city with lots of space and arguably more mental freedom than say a city like NYC. How do think the city can shape an artist and their work?

Where you live is everything because the shapes, sounds, sights, smells and colors around you are everything. I think L.A. does encourage mental freedom, clarity, release and expansion.

Whereas, to me, NYC is all about intensity, containment and vulnerability. One isn’t necessarily better than another. Every city inspires in different ways.


What’s the biggest misconception about the L.A. art scene?

That it’s not as good as New York’s.


Art Juice: Claire Cottrell and Los Angeles (Babes At The Museum)


Recently, Mike D of the Beastie Boys curated the “Transmission LA” at MOCA. I also read about the Hammer Museum hosting “Bike Nights.” I love it when institutions spice up the typical museum experience, don’t you?

They’re doing a great job of making contemporary art more accessible by being creative with curation and events. Wow, that makes it sound so dull and boring. It’s a hard thing to explain. Everything’s just cool. Nothing’s been your average exhibition that you go to and walk around a white room and look at good art. There’s been more to it. Browse around Pacific Standard Time‘s site and you’ll see what I mean.


What L.A. museums are you most excited about these days?

I think Jeffrey Deitch is killing it at the MOCA. Every exhibition is so much more than art in a white room. The programming is brilliant.


 And what museums would you say are underrated or at least don’t get the proper attention that they deserves?

The MAK Center at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, The SkirballThe HuntingtonWilliam S. Hart MuseumCraft and Folk Art MuseumCLUI and LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division)


What are your thoughts on the Hammer having their first Biennal?

I love the idea of an L.A. Biennial, but I wish it was less contained. It would have been cool to have the actual city play a role, instead of it just being about the end result at the museum. The whole point of a specific biennial is the role of the locale, no? Maybe it defeats the point of a museum, but I just wish they’d somehow engaged the city more by taking the show out into the city. and I love that they took it out in to the city. I went to their Venice Beach Biennial last weekend. Seriously cool concept on the Venice Boardwalk aka the “Free Speech and Expression Zone.” L.A. artists created work inspired by all the classic crazy Venice vendors (tarot cards, jade animals, dream catchers, sand art, your name on a grain of rice) and set up shop on the boardwalk for the weekend. You couldn’t really tell the art from the “art.” The boardwalk operates on a first come first serve basis, so every day people show up at 5/6AM to claim their space. The artists had to do the same. It’s not like the Hammer came in and permitted the area and moved in their tents. Brilliant all around even though I’ve heard a lot of criticism about the fact that you couldn’t really distinguish the Biennial artists from the boardwalk vendors. Kinda the thing I liked the most. My favorite: Ben Brunnemer’s giant hand painted tarot cards.


Claire Cottrell at Geffen Contemporary MOCA credit Jon Ramos

Photo by Jon Ramos


Are you noticing any genres of art that are on the rise in L.A. at the moment?

Hmmmmm, there’s a major street art movement here, but it’s not a new thing. It does seem like street art is tip-toeing away from graffiti and murals towards things like little impromptu gardens, urban geodes and knitted parking meter covers. Uncommissioned stuff that beautifies the city. I don’t know, maybe it’s just what I like.


This whole interview makes me want to go to L.A., like right away. Not being a local n’ all, walk me through an epicly awesome daytrip through L.A., skipping the clutter and the crap.

To see a different side of the city, I’d probably say check out the Land Art exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Then I’d say go to Fugetsu-Do in Little Tokyo for mochi. Then, take the metro to Highland Park. Swing by Public Fiction. Have dinner at Good Girl Dinette. Maybe a nightcap at The Biltmore.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Cookbook in Echo Park hosts $5 open drawing nights from 7-9PM every Monday. Oh and this happened a few months ago.


For more on Claire and a glimpse at her array of talents and exciting projects check out


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