Marciano Art Foundation: A Peek Inside LA’s Masonic Temple Turned Museum

From the street, the Marciano Art Foundation looks like a strange windowless building adorned with curious iconography. In fact, the Scottish Rite Masons constructed the temple in the early 60s and it wasn’t until 2017 that the structure was transformed into the contemporary art museum that it is today.

The artwork is just as captivating as the history of the building itself. Even if contemporary art isn’t your thing, I highly recommend making a stop here. There’s a wide range of exhibitions that suits many different tastes and it’s free! Can’t go wrong with that.

Ai Weiwei’s Life Cycle

The world-renowned Chinese artist, human-rights activist, and filmmaker Ai Weiwei is presenting his first exhibition in Los Angeles until March 3, 2019. He has worked for ten years on this collection, which hits on global issues like the refugee crisis, and freedom of speech alongside Chinese mythological creatures.

Ai Weiwei at the Marciano Art Foundation

To be honest, modern and contemporary art are my least favorite styles. Especially after an unfortunate event where I was staring at a fire extinguisher, but that’s another story. However, I fell in love with Weiwei’s use of ancient bamboo kite-making techniques and kooky creatures, from water demons to samurais. The Life Cycle exhibition’s simplicity and messages also really resonated with me.

The first piece you see is 49 tons worth of porcelain sunflower seeds. Together they look like one uniform instillation, but each seed is unique from the next. Not to mention very, very realistic (I was fooled). It parallels the individual’s role in greater society and the importance of authenticity.

Sunflower Seeds at the Marciano Art Foundation

Permanent Collection

The upper floors house the permanent exhibition showcasing artists from around the globe. It ranges from photography, mixed media, and sculpture to paintings and various types of instillations. Most pieces bring awareness to different socio-political issues and are from the 90s till present day.

Dorian Lynde’s Buying Power instillation immediately caught my attention. The mock grocery store shelves are stocked with “don’t tell me to smile” mouth wash, bottled gender fluid, industrial strength “stigmaway”, shame remover, and “toxic femininity” spray. Her work explores marketing tactics that influence gender construct and shouldn’t be missed.

Marciano Art Foundation permanent collection

Yayoi Kusama’s With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever

Kusama’s eclectic installation is one of the most popular ongoing exhibits. Visitors don shoe covers and enter the immersive space featuring large potted tulip sculptures overlaid with red polkadots. It reminded me of stepping into a two-dimensional world from a Dr. Seuss book. The artwork touches upon the dualism between natural versus artificial and plays tricks on depth perception.

Try to visit Kusama’s piece on weekdays or during non-peak hours to fully experience her work and take a selfie with one of the gigantic flowers.

Kusama at the Marciano Art Foundation

The Masonic Relic Room

The Marciano Art Foundation also pays tribute to the space’s original owners, the freemasons. On display are antique crowns, silk banners, old photographs, and books once used by members of the fraternity. These forgotten items help shine a light on the many rituals and practices of the secretive group and are very interesting to learn about for those who are unfamiliar with the masons.

Masonic Relics at the Marciano Art Foundation


Tickets: The museum is free to visit, but guests are turned away if it reaches capacity. Reserve a timed ticket online to be safe. Parking in the lot is also free of charge.

Hours: Open only from Thursday to Sunday.

  • Thursday and Friday from 11am – 5pm
  • Saturday from 10am – 6pm
  • Sunday from 10am – 5pm

Los Angeles has lots of amazing museums, pop ups, galleries, and street art. Check out my other posts for more.

What is your favorite museum in Los Angeles? Leave a comment below.


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