America’s Most Artistic City: NYC or LA?

By Melissa Liu

Visiting New York City during spring break made me wonder whether the Big Apple was the ultimate city for the arts in America, or if it was rivaled by the artistic offerings found in Los Angeles. Both LA and NYC are known as great cultural centers and repositories for the arts in the US. However, some might argue that New Yorkers are more cultured than the artistically-apathetic Angelenos in So Cal, while other will argue that Los Angeles has more authentic ethnic diversity in regards to culture? So how can we determine which city is more artsy? Perhaps we can answer this question by comparing the two cities in different categories of “art”…

Art Museums:

NYC: MOMA, Met, Whitney, Frick Collection, Guggenheim, Cooper-Hewitt, and Brooklyn Museum are just a few and the list goes on…

LA: the Hammer, Norton Simon, MOCA, LACMA, Getty Museum and Villa are noteworthy ones

Conclusion: NYC has more museums per sq. mile and more paintings and sculptures per capital. Los Angeles is still behind in terms of the number of Picasso and Van Gogh paintings it owns, not to mention a lack of monetary support from museum donors (read about MOCA’s recent financial troubles).

Professional Theater:

NYC: Has at over 30 theaters in its Broadway Theater district, not to mention noteworthy off-Broadway shows… a theater enthusiast’s paradise

LA: Is upping the ante on its theater scene, featuring Broadway shows at many theaters throughout LA and is also home to some great cultural finds and grassroots theater projects

Conclusion: NYC… LA still has a long way to go before it can top Broadway but it does deserve credit for premiering it own shows (find out about LA’s world premier of Minsky’s the musical at the Ahmanson, and other theater shows).


NYC: Home to dance companies of Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, American Ballet Theater, and the world famous Radio City Rockettes

LA: LA Contemporary Dance Company and shows like America’s Next Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Dance… its hard not to run into a dance crew in LA, while ballerinas might be more of a rarity

Conclusion: NYC seems to be more classical friendly while LA has embraced more of the street dance scene.


NYC: Empire State Building, art deco styled Chrysler Building, international style Seagram Building and historical residential buildings, such as Manhattan’s Dakota and the multimillion brownstones found in Brooklyn.

LA: Features many prized designs by Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright (Hollyhock House, Ennis House, and Disney Concert Hall) not to mention historical architecture found at the Huntington Gardens. And don’t forget the McMansions!

Conclusion: NYC has a richer architectural history, while LA has attracted more contemporary deconstructionist architects, while also being the birthplace of the suburban tract home.

Movies and Television:

NYC: Not really known for movie studios… but does have various television studios, mostly news related (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN)… and isn’t Gossip Girl filmed in NY??

LA: Paramount, Disney, Universal, Dreamworks, and 21st Century Fox are based in LA, not to mention countless television studios.

Conclusion: Los Angeles has always been the home of the silver screen, no doubt about it! Movies and celebrity gossip are one of LA’s top exports.

So, which city is more artistic? Los Angeles and New York have equal footing in some aspects of the arts but comparing each city’s art scene is like comparing apples to oranges (sorry if this leaves you hanging for a more concrete answer). You’ll just have decide for yourself which city is more artistic… check out The LA Times Culture Monster and The New York Times Arts Beat to come up with your own decision. And most importantly, don’t forget to go out into the city and experience the arts!