More museums per capita than any other

city in the nation. More legitimate stage productions than in any other American metropolitan region. More resident artists than any other city in the world. Does this sound like the same old La La land?.

Beyond fun-in-the-sun and the glamour of Hollywood, the big news about L.A. these days is the city's emergence as a world-class arts destination.

A haven of artistic energy, Los Angeles is garnering national attention for its cultural impact. "Los Angeles is the most promising new art market in the country," said Arnold Glemcher, president of the Pace Gallery in New York. "Los Angeles will be the undisputed cultural capital of the next millennium," said Robert Barrett, director of cultural tourism for the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It's here that artists from every continent are combining their heritage, cutting-edge contemporary concepts and technology to create 21st century culture."

To get a feel for this new arts capital, visitors have the opportunity to experience L.A.'s many unique cultural attractions. More than 2,000 museums, theaters, musical groups and galleries are spread throughout the region.

Foremost among these attractions are the city's many museums, which have spent more than $1.6 billion on construction in the last 10 years_a figure unparalleled in the world_with still more new facilities on the way.

Prized collections, with works by great masters, highlight the city's art scene. More than 60 area museums house works both classical and contemporary, while L.A.'s galleries are elevating the local art scene to one of the most significant in the world. Some of the world's most famous art, like Van Gogh's "Irises" and Gainsborough's "Blue Boy," hangs around town, while more unusual collections (miniatures, movie make-up, cowboy memorabilia) draw crowds of their own.

Topping the list is the J. Paul Getty Museum, which boasts both "Irises" and the world's largest endowment ($4 billion) and will soon be expanding to a new $733 million hilltop location near Brentwood. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the city's largest art showplace and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has two locations showing an impressive collection of modern art.

Visitors will find many of Los Angeles' museums conveniently clustered. Wilshire Boulevard's Museum Row is home to LACMA, as well as a collection of specialty museums: the Petersen Automotive Museum chronicles L.A.'s love affair with the automobile, the Craft and Folk Art Museum shows textiles, pottery and jewelry from around the world, and the George C. Page Museum displays the fossils unearthed from the La Brea Tar Pits.

For more quick museum hopping, Exposition Park south of Downtown houses three: the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the largest of its kind in the West; the Museum of Science and Industry will soon open a state-of-theart ScienCenter with interactive exhibits and a new 3-D IMAX theater; and the California Afro-American Museum focuses on African American artistic and cultural achievements.

Other valuable Los Angeles museums house the formerly private collections of wealthy benefactors. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena includes a library stocked with first edition Shakespeare and a Gutenberg Bible; 200 acres of Japanese, rose, desert and jungle gardens; and galleries displaying "Blue Boy" and its companion, Lawrence's "Pinkie," as well as substantial collections of American and Renaissance paintings and 18th century French art and furnishings.

Also in Pasadena, the Norton Simon Museum, which forms the backdrop to the annual Rose Parade. Inside, the museum holds impressive collections of Rodin sculptures, including "The Thinker" and "The Burgers of Calais"; the complete graphic works of Goya, Rembrandt and Picasso, and the world's largest display of paintings, sculptures and pastels of Degas.

Beyond art, L.A.'s many specialty museums offer opportunities to explore_the painful history of the Holocaust at the Museum of Tolerance, the settlement of the American West at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Native American culture at the Southwest Museum and the broadcast history at the Museum of Television & Radio.

Los Angeles also takes its arts to the streets. Thanks to a significant investment in public art, visitors will find that just entering a building or riding the subway can be an artistic experience. Also famous for its many murals, particularly in East Los Angeles, the city sports more than 1,500 wall paintings, including actor Anthony Quinn as "The Pope of Broadway" Downtown, and "Venice Reconstituted," a Venice Beach reinterpretation of "Venus on the Halfshell."

From the street to the stage, the city's theater scene offers visitors a dynamic range of theater choices from blockbuster musicals like "Beauty and the Beast" to unique experimental productions. Many faces made famous on the movie screen appear in performances at local theaters large and small. Among the most popular venues for top-name theater are the Shubert Theatre in Century City and the Ahmanson Theater at Downtown's Music Center.

A rhapsody of musical performances fills the air yearround_from symphonies, opera and chamber music to blues, contemporary and jazz_either under a balmy starlit sky, in intimate clubs and coffee houses or in elegant concert halls. Performance venues large and small abound, with some notable al fresco concert spots, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theater, California Plaza and the John Ford Amphitheater. The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion houses the acclaimed Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by EsaPekka Salonen, the Los Angeles Opera and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The range of music is just part of the region's diversity. As home to more than 120 communities representing all regions of the world, the L.A. cultural scene offers the chance to travel the world in one city. More than 165 festivals are presented annually, giving the visitor a chance to sample the region's rich cultural diversity nearly every week.

More festivals "can be experienced in the City of Angels than in any other destination," according to Barrett. "L.A. culture, combined with Southern California's casual lifestyle, year-round weather and most ethnically diverse urban population in the world, make Los Angeles the most fascinating cultural destination in the United States," he said.

Tanya Mishell is Director, Corporate Relations for the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau

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