Los Angeles Plays Itself

How Southern California became a nexus of art

Getty Museum / Tate, London

Los Angeles Plays Itself Pacific Standard Time

Henry James once made a famous inventory of "the items of high civilization...absent from the texture of American life." No king, no aristocracy, no palaces--how could anyone produce art in a place without those? Keep in mind that he was thinking about Nathaniel Hawthorne's relatively civilized New England. God knows what James would have made of Los Angeles around 1950.

In the years after World War II, there could hardly have been a city less likely to become a great art center than L.A. It didn't really have a major museum, much less one devoted to modern work. And anyway, everybody...

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