With something like 400 modern and contemporary art galleries in L.A., and aesthetic taste being so subjective, picking just ten of the city's "best" galleries is nigh unto impossible. But if you wish to filter your culture destinations through the lens of a swell party -- well, that makes the job a bit more manageable.
Assuming the art itself is quality, what else makes for a good gallery party? The best answer is the optimum balance of culture and fun, energy and sophistication, good art and good crowds. But does it require cocktails? Famous people? Obscure but fabulous people? Events worth dressing up a little for, or ones where you don't have to worry about what you're wearing?
Setting aside for the moment the proliferation of popular pop-ups, neighborhood walks and tours and museum shindigs, we sought out the establishments that, month in and month out, can be counted on to consistently provide your best chance to learn something while you get your art/rock on. It's worth adding yourself to their mailing lists, because each and every show comes with its own guaranteed good time.
10. Subliminal Projects
Founded by street-art demigod Shepard Fairey inside the footprint of his progressive propaganda factory Studio Number One, Subliminal Projects launched in 2003 for the purpose of showing other artists from the street art/fine art continuum. Even though Fairey makes only the rare cameo appearance, his name still has the power to attract famous artists from the 80s to the present day, plus huge audiences for their later-than-usual openings (typically 8-11 p.m.). Crowds that skew slightly young and male, beer that skews toward PBR, and a DJ stationed in the foyer give these shindigs a slightly rough, loud energy that do both the neighborhood -- and the still-relevant edge of the street art genre -- justice. 1331 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (213) 213-0078, www.subliminalprojects.com.
9. New Image Art Gallery
Marsea Goldberg's New Image Art has been murdering the corner of Santa Monica and Fairfax since 1994, expanding from a 10-by-10-foot office space to a built-out, floodlit hall with a proper project room and offices, and drawing ever-expanding crowds to match. She was at least a decade ahead of the curve on celebrating post-punk skate and street culture, and many can thank New Image for their first exposure to artists such as Fairey, Camille Rose Garcia, Ed Templeton, Spencer Tunick, and Barry McGee. When she brought those crazy kids in from the cold, they brought the party with them -- and even though time and global recognition have made them all stars, the old-school good times have never ended. 7920 Santa Monica Blvd., W Hlywd. (323) 654-2192, www.newimageartgallery.com.
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