Public art is virtually everywhere you look in Los Angeles, with outdoor murals, sculptures and architectural embellishments anywhere you're likely to find yourself, but there is also art worth seeing in some rather unusual places that might take a little more effort, or at least the intention to pay attention.
1. The LA Metro
The Los Angeles Metro has invested greatly in beautifying the Metro stations with interesting architecture and public art. You can explore on your own with a guide from their website, or take a guided Metro Art Tour.
The Los Angeles Central Library in Downtown LA stages exhibits in addition to many major permanent art installations, but some of the Los Angeles branch libraries also have great art. A few of my favorites are the glass paintings of fairytales by Cha-Rie Tang at Exposition Park Library and Nancy Uyemura's magical Peacock Fireplace at Pico Union Library.
The Watts Towers loom over a humble neighborhood in South Los Angeles as a tribute to one man's vision and persistence. The Gaudi-esque open-frame structures tiled in broken bottles and cast off ceramics draws art pilgrims from around the world. The adjacent Art Center also stages temporary exhibits.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has both permanent public art projects and temporary exhibits that you can enjoy on your next flight in or out, or during a layover. Some of the art is beyond airport security, but you can pay a visit to the Theme Building, with it's public art tribute to 9/11 without leaving the ground.
Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood is home to the Corita Art Center, a tribute to artist Sister Mary Corita, famous for creating iconic serigraphs in the 1960s and 70s. The gallery, in the high school's administrative office, is open to the public, but serigraph sales require an appointment (323) 450-4650.
You don't necessarily think of visiting a cemetery for the art, but Forest Lawn Memorial Parks have a world-renowned collection of art and architecture including replicas of Michelangelo's David, Moses and La Pieta, a stained glass re-creation of da Vinci's Last Supper in Glendale, the world's largest historical mosaic, The Birth of Liberty at Hollywood Hills, and Long Beach has a mosaic interpretation of the classic Raphael fresco Paradise in the Vatican.