We tend to rank art museums according to the importance of their permanent collections, even as those rooms likewise tend to be the quietest, less-traveled spaces in the building. “What’s new?” we ask ourselves as we make a beeline to the special exhibition galleries to see the latest offering.
In truth, nothing makes me happier than spending time in those quieter galleries, where objects in the collection become like friends, whom you’re happy to run into again. The experience is how one develops a special bond with a museum, which can otherwise feel institutionally aloof. Lunch at the cafe or sale-shopping at the store can be a fun diversion, but extra time with the collection is finally more satisfying.
Temporary, changing exhibitions draw most of the attention at Los Angeles art museums, as they do everywhere, but together the city’s museums hold hundreds of thousands of absorbing works of global art in their collections. Here are some examples, selected not because they represent the cream (though some do) but because aesthetic value spreads wide and the major and the minor have their own charms. Each is something I find myself returning to, so the more time one spends, the more they reveal themselves.
Not all museums have permanent permanent-collection displays, however, instead changing what’s on view from the collection with regularity; others have only modest gallery space for it. So, before you go it’s often worth checking the institution’s website if you hope to see a specific object.