Find Art in the Funniest Places: A Guide to Crazy Public Sculptures

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Looking right behind you – yes, right there, hidden in plain sight.  It’s art!  Los Angeles offers fantastic eye opening sculptures with a pinch of whimsy, a dash of craziness, and a spoonful of LA style. Visit one or many… you can visit one if you happen to be in the ‘hood, or we like to take the kiddos on an treasure hunt:  create a page filled with fun items to look for on your outing and include these sculptures. Here are some to get you started: Find something that begins with the letter of your first name. Find a drumming bunny.  Find something brown. Find something rough. Find a ballet clown.  Find a squirrel. The rest are up to you.  Have fun hunting!

Tulips Sculpture

Beverly Hills

Hymn of Life: Tulips created by Yayoi Kusama 2007
Put a smile on your face by dropping by this playful, color-bursting sculpture located in the Beverly Gardens Park. No climbing is the rule, but don’t despair, bring Play-Doh and let your little Michelangelos get to work creating what they see. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the park, and then finish the day off with a ride on the Beverly Hills Trolley (which you can catch from the Southeast corner of the park by Rodeo Dr. and Dayton Way). Once you’re back at the park, walk just north of the park to a quiet residential neighborhood and see if you can find the real life Witch’s House! The Spadena House was built on a film studio lot in 1921 and relocated to its current location in 1934. Currently it is a private residence. Insiders Tip: For those left hungry or thirsty by the adventure, nearby is Urth Caffe, where you can grab some organic drinks and sweets.
Potties & Parking: Metered parking and public restrooms are available.

Beverly Gardens Park
N. Santa Monica Blvd. and N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills

Also at the Beverly Gardens Park…

Rabbit Sculpture Los Angeles

The Drummer created by Barry Flanagan 1989-1990
Does life imitate art? The answer is “nope” when it comes to this sculpture of a giant rabbit happily drumming away. No matter, the kiddos will whoop for joy over this art piece in the Beverly Gardens Park. Hand out musical instruments and now the official bunny band begins. March around the base and let the kiddies imagine the music created by the bun bun leader.

Lenin with Mao on his Head Sculpture

Los Angeles

Miss Mao Trying to Poise Herself at the Top of Lenin’s Head created by The Gao Brothers 2012
It’s big! It’s shiny! It’s…It’s…what the HECK is that? Yep, it’s a massive Lenin head. Touch it, walk around the base, discuss it and be thankful it’s not in your living room. Comments will abound since everyone will have something to say. Have the kiddies say one thing they like and one thing they would change about the art. After sculpture viewing and discussion, head to Sycamore Kitchen across the street for sumptuous snacks that everyone in the family will devour.

400 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles

Metal Sculpture Los Angeles

Airplane Parts created by Nancy Rubins 2006
This massive artwork at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA),  was created using old airplane parts. Who wouldn’t want to stare up and around trying to see inside every crevice? The structure is 25 feet tall and 65 feet across. Then don’t forget to go inside and tour the museum. Have budding Frank Gehrys in the midst? When you get home, break out the construction paper, glue, cardboard, pasta and even Legos and let the bambinos try to come up with their work with their own flair. Give awards for the funniest, the tallest structure, and the most colors used.  Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss Sunday Studio: a free, quarterly event. Find interactive art experiences, music, and snacks. Check the website for dates.
Parking: Park at the Walt Disney Concert Hall for $9, with museum validation, ($20 deposit required, $11 refunded upon exit). Enter the parking garage on 2nd street between Grand Ave. and Hope St.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Plaza
250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

Bronze Sculpture Headless Worker

Corporate Head created by Terry Allen and Phillip Levine 1991
Raise your hand if you can relate. Yep, the grind got this one. A visit to this sculpture usually ensures that viewers will be attacked by the giggle monster. For kids young and old who enjoy the quirkiness life has to offer. The inscription on the floor reads: “They said I had a head for business. They said to get ahead I had to lose my head. They said be concrete & I became concrete. They said, go, my son, multiple, divide, conquer. I did my best.” After, pop over to the Grand Central Market for some yumminess.
Parking: Underground parking available; prices vary depending on day and time of arrival.

Ernst & Young Building
725 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles

the dance door

The Dance Door created by Robert Graham 1978
Who puts a giant bronze door in the middle of a walkway? Who cares, since this will have you singing “I can go in, I can go out, I’m in, now I’m out…”  Running, dancing, hopping, or walking through it can set the imagination on fire. I’m in the future, I’m in the past. I’m at the beach. I’m back at home taking a nap. Insider Tip: Located between The Music Center and City Hall (in the Mall), the Court of Historic Flags is a must see. 18 historic flags from United States history are displayed proudly.

The Music Center
135 N Grand Ave., Los Angeles


Santa Monica

Topiaratops at 3rd Street Promenade created by Claude & Francois LaLanne, 1989
Kiddos and adults will delight at the sight of this giant triceratops topiary. Now say that three-times fast!  What’s not to love about a triceratops topiary shooting water out of its mouth? This is a very family-friendly and dog-friendly walking street, which is perfect for an outing and for adding to those 10,000 daily steps. Plenty of restaurants and restrooms abound. Santa Monica even has an Ambassador Program. The Ambassadors help provide directions, information, and assorted other items. Ambassadors can be recognized by their pink shirts and wide brim hats. Insider tip: An ambassador monitors the restroom in Parking Structure 4. 

3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica

Art Tool
Art Tool created by Carl Cheng 1988
This ginormous roller stamp is super lucky to live at the Santa Monica Beach, just north of the pier. Who wouldn’t want to live on the beach for free? Have the kids tell you what would happen if the tool was pulled across the sand. What carving is their favorite? How many kids tall is it? Pack a picnic lunch and grab some sun and sand or mosey up to the pier for some eats.
Potties & Parking: There are five parking lots near the pier: Two north, three south and the Pier Parking Deck. Also located some short term metered lots about a $1 per hour. Restrooms open every day from 5:00 am to dusk.

The Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica


Wheels created by Anne Marie Karlsen 2010
This brightly colored mural forces you to stop and look.  Look at the material it was made from. How would it be described? Does the sun change the aspects of the shapes?  Count the floors of the building. How many cars will fit in all of those spaces? Have everyone try to find their favorite color(s). Are we done yet? YES! Now stroll over to Santa Monica Place N’ice Cream and treat everyone to their favorite colored organic gelato or sorbet.

Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica Place Garage exterior, facing 2nd Street
395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica

Ballerina Clown Statue


Ballerina Clown created by Jonathan Borofsky 2008
We love LA!  What other city would put a man’s clown face on top of a ballerina body, create it large enough for it to hang on the side of a building and then actually attach and hang it from the side of a building? This one is a definite head-turner. Ballerina Clown is 30 feet tall and…are you ready…mechanized, which allows the right foot to move forever to an unknown beat!  What’s not to love? Gaze up at this site, until you can’t gaze anymore and then hit The Rose Café and Market for breakfast, lunch or just one of the amazing pastries.

Renaissance Building
255 Main Street, Venice

What are your favorite public art installations? We’d love to hear about your adventures finding public art in our city in the comments below.

– Erica Groten

Photo Credits: Willem van Bergen via flickr, Rocor via flickr, allegro Takahi via flickr, Mike Knell via flickr, Gary Minnaert via flickr, Sheila Thomson via flickr, Gareth Simpson via flickr, Ed Uthman via flickr, Inazakira via flickr, Joselito Tagarao via flickr, Dakine Kane via flickr