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City Controller Shines Light on Los Angeles’ Neglected Art Collection

With most museums still closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, Angelenos wishing to enjoy local art are more dependent than ever on the city’s public art collection.  And last week, as part of a larger study of Los Angeles’ city-owned art, City Controller Ron Galperin released an interactive “map of 200 sculptures, installations, murals and photos that exist in and on buildings, at parks and elsewhere throughout Los Angeles,” to make our public art easier to find and visit.  The map also includes information about each work and the artist who produced it.

“Public art is central to the identity of our communities in Los Angeles,” said Galperin in a statement about the project. “It inspires creativity and enhances landscapes in our neighborhoods. Because many Angelenos aren’t visiting museums in person just yet, I hope people will use this map to discover the public art that already exists in our parks and on our streets.”

But the map is also part of a larger study of LA’s full City Art Collection that Galperin just released.  The full collection is overseen by the Department of Cultural Affairs, and contains “2,500 additional paintings, murals, sculptures, lithographs and photographs displayed at public buildings, on loan or in storage.”

Acording to Galperin, in his introduction to the report, “The City’s collection of artwork is incredibly diverse, and includes paintings, photographs, sculptures, murals, and artifacts such as rare furniture. City-owned works of art are important because they support the development of creative spaces and communities, and help to ensure Angelenos can experience art in their daily lives.”

But according to the report, called “A More Modern Approach to City-Owned Art,” the news about the full collection isn’t good.

In fact, says the statement from Galperin’s office, “Due to budget and staffing constraints, DCA no longer monitors or manages the City Art Collection at all”…and “a substantial portion of City art is missing or damaged.”

More specifically, Galperin’s audit found that:

    • 18 percent of the City Art Collection is missing or stolen.
    • 25 percent of the artworks with condition data are damaged or in poor condition.
    • 41 percent of the collection lacks identifying photographs.
    • 50 percent of the collection is missing appraisal information. The artworks that do have appraisal information were valued at $19 million, but those appraisals are between 16 and 40+ years old.

And larger issues include lack of regular inventories and condition assessments, no way to remove items from the collection, the use of outdated database software, lack of information centralization, lack of public access to collection information…and more.

But in addition to noting the problems with the collection, the report also recommends “sweeping changes” to improve the city’s art inventory and its management.  The recommendations include:

    • Developing a full inventory of City-owned art
    • Creating an online catalog and map of all City art
    • Implementing a modern system to manage the collection
    • And leveraging the expertise of local arts organizations and academic institutions to better showcase City art.

According to Galperin’s recommendations, it’s important work . “The City must take steps to fully account for what it owns, care for those works of art on an ongoing basis, and make the art more accessible to the public,” says the report.

Protecting and preserving the City’s art – as well as making information about art as accessible as possible – will help to ensure that Angelenos can connect to the City’s cultural heritage for years to come.”

For more infomation on the city’s full art collection and Galperin’s report, see or  A downloadable/printable PDF version is also available here.

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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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