The Best Exhibits at Museums and Galleries in L.A. in September

Your guide to new openings, must-sees, and what you need to catch while you can

We’re blessed with an abundance of museums and art galleries here in L.A., but with so many shows rotating in and out at any given time, it can be hard to keep up. Nobody wants to be the person who only finds out about a cool exhibit when it’s closing down and heading out of town. To help you make the most of your gallery-going, we’ve picked a selection of the best exhibits at museums and galleries around town.

New Openings in September

Ai Weiwei: Life Cycle – Marciano Art Foundation

September 28 to March 3

The first of four Ai Weiwei exhibitions opening in September and October in Los Angeles, the Marciano Art Foundation will be showing series of large-scale sculptures by the artist. Among the works on display will be a brand new piece about the global refugee crisis, “Life Cycle,” which has never been shown anywhere before.


William Lamson: Badwater – Make Room Gallery

September 1 to October 28

Artist William Lamson has developed a complex installation inside DTLA’s Make Room to bring the vast forces of global climate change into a gallery space. The climate-controlled, immersive Badwater mimics the harsh environmental conditions of Death Valley and highlights accelerating cycles of flood, drought, and geological evolution, with actual saltwater being pumped in and evaporating each day.


Alex “Defer” Kizu: Skyroom – L.A. Louver

September 6 to October 20

L.A. street artist Alex Kizu–who works under the name Defer–has become something of a fixture in local galleries lately, appearing in Beyond the Streets, last year’s Roll Call show, curated by Gajin Fujita, and Don’t Believe the Hype, a recent show focusing on Chinese Americans in hip-hop culture. For this solo show, he will be creating a massive, intricate mural on an open-topped outdoor “skyroom” structure.


John Baldessari: BLAH – Mixografia

September 15 to October 20

In addition to being a gallery, Mixografia is a specialized publisher of handmade art prints and editions. This month, they’ll display the images from a new John Baldessari print series, “BLAH.” Also on display will be the artist’s 2010 series, “Eight Colorful Inside Jobs,” and its 1977 predecessor, “Six Colorful Inside Jobs.”


Sherin Guirguis: Of Thorns and Love – Craft & Folk Art Museum

September 30 to January 6

Egyptian-born, Los Angeles-based artist Sherin Guirguis took inspiration for the works presented in Of Thorns and Love from the early 20th Century Egyptian poet and activist Doria Shafik, a campaigner for women’s rights and feminist values. Each piece represents a significant place, moment, or poem from Shafik’s life and important legacy.


West of Modernism: California Graphic Design, 1975 to 1995 – LACMA

September 30 to April 21

See how graphic design evolved as the century ended in this show, a collaboration between LACMA’s Decorative Arts and Design department and Prints and Drawings department. The idea is to see graphic design both as work in itself, and in the context of political and artistic movements of the era.

Ongoing Exhibits

King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh — California Science Center

Closes January 6, 2019

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, this touring exhibition is the most complete collection of artifacts ever shown outside of Egypt. While the run lasts over six months, don’t wait until the last minute to check it out—tickets for this blockbuster show have been selling out weeks in advance.


A Journey That Wasn’t – The Broad

Closes February 2019

At first glance, A Journey That Wasn’t seems like it covers a lot of ground, with a mix of eras, styles, media, and approaches all in one show. What ties it all together is a theme: Every artwork finds the artist thinking about time, and how time passing impacts our lives. Works on display in this new show are drawn entirely from The Broad’s deep and diverse permanent collection, with several never been displayed in L.A. before.


Rauschenberg: In and About L.A. – LACMA

Closes February 10

As the name implies, all the pieces in this Robert Rauschenberg solo show were made in and about Los Angeles, during the formative periods of his life he spent here. He first arrived in California when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton in 1944, and a visit to L.A. during that time inspired him to dedicate his life to art. During the 1960s and ’70s he worked with local print-making studios Gemini G.E.L. and Styria Studio, and he was an early participant in LACMA’s own Art and Technology Program, collaborating with scientists and engineers of the era to create art.

Closing Soon

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited – Skirball Cultural Center

Closes September 2

Take a deep dive into the magical world of Jim Henson, with this expansive exhibit which includes artifacts from his creative career. You’ll find Muppets, Sesame Street characters, items from Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock, and an array of personal notes, sketches, and storyboards from Henson’s personal archives.


Real Worlds: Brassaï, Arbus, Goldin — MOCA Grand Avenue

Closes September 3

Curator Lanka Tattersall dove deep into MOCA’s own collection for most of the works on display in this exploration of three of the most influential photographers of the past century, Brassaï, Diane Arbus, and Nan Goldin. Expect poignant, occasionally unsettling, and often beautiful photos documenting moments of modern life.


Shinique Smith: Refuge — California African American Museum

Closes September 9

Shinique Smith’s first solo show at CAAM is inspired in part by her recent move to Los Angeles, themes of displacement, housing insecurity, and homelessness, and the physical landscape of Southern California. The artist hails from Baltimore (and even appeared in some John Waters movies) and lived in New York City before finding herself drawn to L.A., finally moving here at the beginning of 2018. In just a few months, she’s soaked up inspiration for a compelling show that reflects the city in a way even natives will find eye-opening.


Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911 – 2011 – Getty Center

Closes October 21

Edward Steichen is credited as being the first person to create fashion photography that worked as much as fine art as commercial advertising. This exhibit starts with him, in 1911, and moves forward, examining the generations of photographer that have taken inspiration from the beauty of high fashion, and the people who model and design it.


69:Déjà Vu – MOCA Pacific Design Center

Closes October 28

The Los Angeles-based brand 69 exists at the nexus of fashion and fine art. The anonymous designer behind the creations aims to create elegant yet utilitarian items that challenge notions of gender, and create a universal, inclusive style. This will be the first solo museum show of 69’s work; video and photo installations accompany the garments on display.


RELATED: The Broad’s Newest Show Has Been a Long Time Coming


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