Los Angeles is one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world, and its street art is no exception. Described by LA Weekly as the “city of a thousand murals,” Los Angeles attracts talented street artists from around the globe, many of whom see adding a piece to the city of Angels as a rite of passage.
With so much amazing art to see, spread across a sprawling cityscape, planning a tour of Los Angeles murals can be overwhelming. But we’ve got your back. Check out our list of the LA mural districts that can’t be missed.
Los Angeles Arts District (Downtown)
In a city bursting at the seams with creative genius, relentless hustle, and all-around bad-assery, being dubbed “LA’s Mural Mecca” is no small feat. Located on the eastern edge of Downtown, south of Little Tokyo and bordering Boyle Heights, LA’s historic Arts District features an array of urban art masterpieces, making it the perfect starting point in your Los Angeles graffiti journey.
Home to something in the neighborhood of 100 murals, the Arts District has transformed over the years from orange and grapefruit orchard to industrial center to trendy neighborhood, one longtime resident describing the area as “kind of a Mayberry filled with bohemian artists.” The walls themselves are ever-changing too, some pieces lasting just a few years before they’re washed away and replaced with new work.
Take a virtual walking tour of the Arts District and you’ll see why it’s one of the few LA mural districts where street art is not only sanctioned, but encouraged, with some building owners going so far as to supply muralists with paint.
Recent highlights include murals by Austrian sensation Nychos, famous for his insanely detailed, pulled-apart characters; Kent Twitchell’s massive painterly portrait of Ed Ruscha on the side of The American Hotel; and Oakland-based Hueman’s vibrant, otherworldly tribute to community activist and writer Joel Bloom, who gave the Arts District its name.
Venice Beach Graffiti Walls & Murals
Iconic for its iron-pumpers, street ballers, bohemian shops and assorted weirdos, Venice is itself a sort of living artwork. Whether you walk, bike, or roller skate, all roads lead to the neighborhood’s famous beachside boardwalk, and along the way it’s hard to pass a single block that doesn’t feature spectacular Los Angeles graffiti.
The area’s crown jewel is Abbot Kinney Boulevard, home to famous restaurants and shops, and, of course, a dizzying array of Los Angeles murals. Among the street’s most striking pieces are James Goldcrown’s so-called “Love Walls,” which feature a manic array of overlapping multicolored hearts set against a black or white background; a sombre portrait of a young woman by Portuguese relief art virtuoso VHILS drilled into one shop’s brick; and Noah Abrams’ photorealistic mural of LA’s signature palm trees (pro tip: if you find just the right angle, one of the mural’s silhouettes lines up with a real palm).
Check out a Venice mural art photo gallery for other must-see LA graffiti murals, including vibrant pieces by Love bErto reminiscent of stained glass, a surrealist portrait of underwater filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart by Tristan Eaton, and a tribute to the good old days of Dogtown by Jaber and Jonas Never.
West Hollywood Murals
No article about art in Los Angeles would be complete without mention of Hollywood. Though it’s best known as the place where big screen stars are born, Hollywood -- specifically, the neighborhood of West Hollywood or “WeHo” -- is also a gold mine for Los Angeles graffiti. In fact, many say it’s home to the most “Instagrammable” Los Angeles murals (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Here you’ll find 3 must-see Los Angeles murals in one place, each painted on a wall of the West Hollywood Library parking garage. The first, a stunning blue-black calligraphic design by LA native RETNA, looks like it’s been pulled from a either a papyrus scroll or an asylum’s walls. Keep circling the garage and you’ll find two more eye-popping murals: Peace Elephant by Shepard Fairey and An exercise in spontaneity by Kenny Scharf, each living up to its creator’s iconic reputation.
West Hollywood is also home to several of Colette Miller’s angel wings, part of the artist’s Global Angel Wings Project started in 2012, ready-made for posing. Similarly, the Paul Smith store’s famous pink wall and Melrose Avenue’s gray-on-gray Made in LA mural might be easy to miss were it not for the line of visitors eager to snap a photo.
Culver City Mural Program
A staple of silver screen history, Culver City is famous as the home of MGM studios, makers of such imaginative classics as the James Bond series, Ben-Hur, and The Wizard of Oz. The area’s walls are nothing short of magic too.
One of this LA Mural district’s most popular pieces is Technicolor Drip by Jen Stark. Stark’s largest work to date and the first of her Los Angeles murals (you can find another in the Arts District), Technicolor Drip features the artist’s trademark brilliant colors and trippy designs, which she describes as “corporeal abstractions” designed to transport viewers out of reality and “into an immersive ecosphere of echoing patterns and implausible designs found in nature.” If this sort of reality distortion sounds fun, be sure to also check out Joshua Callaghan’s Almost Invisible Boxes, a Culver City public art project that features vinyl-wrapped utility boxes disguised as part of the surrounding landscape.
Other must-see Los Angeles murals include another of James Goldcrown’s “Love Walls,” this one adopting a festive red and white design; a series of dropping hyperrealist works by Australian Fintan Magee; and Going Everywhere Fast, a strangely tender comic-style portrait of a motorcycle couple by D*Face.
South Central Los Angeles Graffiti Walls & Murals
Though it occupies just a few square miles of the city, South Central looms large in LA’s cultural memory. Political unrest and gang-themed movies and music made famous a skewed version of this historic neighborhood in the late 80’s and early 90’s, so you might be surprised to learn that South Central is home to a burgeoning roster of talented street artists.
A recent grassroots art project, Smile South Central, hopes to highlight this fact, and facilitates collaboration between Los Angeles graffiti and mural artists and local building owners, attracting contributors like Skid Robot, Dourone, and Clinton Bopp, with some locals even bringing supplies like floodlights and ladders to help the painters out.
By encouraging muralists to engage with the community, Smile South Central is helping to reshape locals’ perspectives on street art, with the area’s gang tags and sloppy vandalism give way to huge, impressive murals, including one gut-punch by Ralph Ziman at 47th and Main and another at Kimberly Party Supply on 48th and Wall Street, dedicated to the memory of a young girl shot and killed on that corner.
While it doesn’t attract as many tourists, South Central is a great place to see LA graffiti murals, and is undoubtedly on the come-up, fueled by heart and authenticity. “You can paint in Melrose, you can paint in fucking Hollywood,” says contributor Septerhed, “but there’s something special about South Central.”
All that great art, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what Los Angeles has to offer. Which LA mural district are you most excited to see? Any favorite walls we’ve skipped? Shout out in the comments!