Westwood has all the elements needed to have a cute shopping district—the sidewalks are wide, the storefronts spacious, and the parking plentiful. An old movie theater (still operational) serves as a vestige from a time Westwood had a vibrant downtown. Why it is not a destination, despite its relative proximity to Beverly Hills and its student population—UCLA is moments from the shopping district—can be traced back to a gang-related shooting in 1988 that killed a young graphic designer. After that, and the ensuing police state lockdown, the town was pockmarked. An initiative by The Hammer Museum, with funding from a Goldhirsh Foundation grant, aims to change all that, at least for the month of November.
The “Arts ReSTORE LA” project is a month-long cluster of art-related pop-up boutiques in downtown Westwood. Shops include a fruit-based kunstkammer (called “Fruitique!”) by L.A.-based collective Fallen Fruit, a letterpress workshop by The Iron Curtain Press, and a bazaar with furniture, clothing, skateboards, and accessories from L.A. vendors like ERMIE x Weltenbuerger, Tanya Aguiñiga, Brigid Coulter Design, and Loyal Dean.
The concept behind “Arts ReSTORE LA” is part of the larger LA2050 project by the Goldhirsh Foundation, which is crowdsourcing participants to imagine an idealistic version of the city 37 years in the future. The Hammer proposed that this downtrodden area will be revitalized into an artist’s haven, quaint and removed, but close enough to Los Angeles for it to be convenient.
“[Hammer Director] Annie Philbin has been wanting to re-activate Westwood for a long time,” said Bettina Korek, who runs Los Angeles arts organization ForYourArt. ForYourArt was invited to open a shop called Give Good Art, which features editions and unique artworks in a comfortable shopping environment—just in time for the holidays. “The question we always wrestle with is: how can we bring the gallery feeling to a shopping space?”
Korek is bringing back several projects she worked on in the main ForYourArt space, which is across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)—art/shopping ideas like New Artisanal Now, The Planter Show, and Benefit Edition—while also debuting new items like Alex Israel’s collaboration with Barbara Kruger for his Freeway eyewear line and Matt Merkel Hess knee and shin bowls “so you’re literally buying his time and body,” said Korek. “The idea was to make a ‘department store.’ We have $1 editions up to Mary Weatherford neons,” said Korek. The prices are all in the open (the Weatherford’s run upwards of $7000), which serves for a democratic shopping experience, not unlike browsing the editions that are often sold in a museum bookstore.
Korek points out that Westwood also has a history with art, noting that Virginia Dwan first showed Yves Klein in the city, and Larry Gagosian’s first sales venture was a poster shop catering to UCLA students in the mid-’70s. Now, she says, it’s a city most people just drive by. The opening night of the project saw hundreds of visitors to the district, making downtown Westwood feel vibrant and exciting. “It’s so much fun, right?” said Korek.