Alamy
Rachel B. Levin
January 23, 2015

When you think of visual art in Los Angeles, it might initially be tough to picture anything beyond the screen or the streetscape. While it's true that film and television are the city's reigning art forms, and that street art and fashion are some of its most compelling visuals, Los Angeles in fact contains a robust assortment of fine art housed in fantastic museums. There are niche museums devoted to ethnic and folk art, as well as offbeat museums showcasing edgy, experimental offerings. But the focus of this list is LA's serious art players—museums that give art capitals like Paris and New York City a run for their money. These heavyweights span LA's geography from the Pasadena foothills to the Brentwood hilltops, and their art collections leap across continents and centuries. You can glimpse Impressionist paintings, pop art drawings, or Asian sculptures all while relishing some stunning museum campuses.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

This sprawling campus is the largest museum of art in the West, and it's grown even larger in recent years with the addition of new buildings, plus the installation of Chris Burden's fanciful Urban Light and the hulking boulder Levitated Mass. Highlights include Asian and Latin American art and pre-Columbian treasures.

Museum of Contemporary Art

MOCA (as it's known to locals) is ground zero for cutting-edge, post-1940 American and European art, from abstract expressionism to pop art to video installations. The permanent collection boasts works by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Rothko, and Cindy Sherman, while lively rotating exhibitions feature emerging and influential artists.

The Getty Center

Perched on a Brentwood hilltop with astounding city and ocean views, The Getty is Los Angeles's crown jewel of art. Take a tram up the hill and arrive at the series of Richard Meier-designed glass-and-stone buildings housing masterpieces by Da Vinci, Monet, and Rembrandt, as well as artful landscaped gardens.

Armand Hammer Museum of Art

This eclectic museum under the auspices of the University of California, Los Angeles, houses wide-ranging permanent collections, from paintings by American and European masters to contemporary drawings by local Los Angeles artists to a lush sculpture garden. It's also a lively cultural center with frequent lectures, film series, and musical performances.

Norton Simon Museum

Industrialist Norton Simon's astonishing collection of European and Southeast Asian art laid the foundation for this internationally respected Pasadena museum and sculpture garden. Among the renowned masterpieces, you'll spy Raphael's Madonna and Child with the Book and Edgar Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, as well as bronze Buddha sculptures from India.

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