Gagosian Art Gallery and Apartments

From the street it's hard to see the splendor of this nondescript, industrial-looking building—that is, until you spy an aerial view revealing its secret heart: a circular interior courtyard, wholly open to the sky.

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51 Market St. Los Angeles, CA 90291
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Photo by Robert Mangurian | Photo by Robert Mangurian

As a nondescript, industrial-looking building on a Venice street full of nondescript, industrial-looking buildings, the Gagosian Art Gallery and Apartments certainly blends into its surroundings. Standing flush with the sidewalk and the warehouses around it, the building’s windowless front façade is clad in gray stucco and marked by spray painted black blobs like those that cover up the work of taggers. A peek at an aerial view of the address, though, reveals a secret heart: a circular interior courtyard, wholly open to the sky.

Influential art dealer Larry Gagosian commissioned Studio Works to design this gallery and living space for him, as one of the first in his chain of galleries across the country. Chief architects Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts created a Postmodern design that would blend into its surroundings but open up into an astounding central area. It was completed in 1981.

The two-story-high circular central volume is open to the elements like an oversized oculus, and has doors leading into other parts of the building. Windows line its perimeter, bringing in even more light, and an abstracted wooden stairway with double-height steps provides access from the first floor up to the second. The Gagosian Gallery no longer uses the space; some other occupant is enjoying the secret urban courtyard as we speak.