The opening of the Broad Museum is claimed by some to bestow a pre-eminence on downtown Los Angeles that has long been sought. Many Angelenos have never been completely persuaded that their sprawling, mongrel-like metropolis could ever have a proper downtown, even though it has skyscrapers hugging the freeway and a line-up of cultural crown jewels on South Grand Avenue, on what is called Bunker Hill, where the Broad is to be found. But the sceptics should take heart. Another part of the city-centre that has been ignored for decades is now coming to the fore, amid hundreds of blocks of low, anonymous industrial buildings that spread southeast a mile or more from the foot of Bunker Hill to the vast railway yards by the Los Angeles river.
A couple of streets away an arts district has been quietly taking root, as a coterie of artists first settled, and then thrived, in near invisibility. Though a few coffee shops and some sophisticated restaurants have opened, most barely announce their presence within the rusting sheds. Murals cover derelict factories and lorries roar down the wide streets.
Ever since it opened, the district’s fulcrum has been the Box, an influential gallery in a concrete-block building, founded by Mara McCarthy, the daughter of Paul McCarthy, a well-known Los Angeles artist. Now, close by the Box, Paul Schimmel, for many years the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), has teamed up with Hauser & Wirth, a powerful international gallery that represents Mr McCarthy, among others, to overhaul a 116,000-square-foot (10,800-square-metre) complex of derelict industrial buildings (pictured). […]