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An art feast for the senses

It seems like just yesterday that the blue-chip gallery Blum & Poe moved onto La Cienega Boulevard and the Culver City Art District was born. But the district south of Venice Boulevard, once a string of warehouses and decaying auto shops, has grown up quickly since 2003, and its annual art walk has matured. This Saturday marks the fourth annual Artwalk Culver City, and from noon until 8 p.m., the sidewalks will become a tangle of pedestrians seeking door-to-door culture at more than 40 galleries.

“This event is about celebrating the diversity of the galleries,” says Martin Cole, Culver City’s assistant city manager.

Diversity, indeed. Work by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and other art A-listers will be on display at Kim Light/Lightbox, while Blum & Poe will exhibit the latest mixed-media outpourings of British artist Keith Tyson. Tattoo-themed illustrations will grace the walls of Billy Shire Fine Arts, and LA Contemporary will hold a solo show of paintings examining the Chinese government and Tiananmen Square. Keeping the vibe weird will be graphic artist Coop’s salacious devil women at Corey Helford Gallery and a 12-foot-tall pair of pants swinging from the rafters of De Soto Gallery. In addition, members of the L.A. Jazz Collective will play al fresco at the corner of Washington and La Cienega from 5 to 8 p.m., as well as inside Billy Shire Fine Arts and Roberts & Tilton Gallery.

Despite a withering economic climate, the Culver City Art District seems to have remained stable. A handful of galleries shut down last year, but an almost equal number opened. Among those in flux, Project:Gallery merged with nearby Cerasoli Gallery last fall. Though the partnership quickly dissolved, Project:Gallery remained in the area in a sense, re-launching as LeBasse Projects in a larger space down the street.

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With most of the galleries stretched out along Washington and La Cienega boulevards, visiting all of them on foot would rack up more than four miles on a pedometer. For Angelenos with a distaste for prolonged ambulation, an air-conditioned Culver CityBus will circle the route and offer unlimited rides for 75 cents.

Miles of stimuli can stoke an appetite, and hungry art patrons will no doubt swarm the local restaurant scene. Veteran art-walkers recommend making reservations at popular destinations such as Father’s Office or La Dijonaise. Rush Street in downtown Culver City offers a bargain art-walk happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m., while those seeking organic grub can look for the eco-friendly Green Truck stationed near Roberts & Tilton Gallery.

Though the presence of a curbside food truck hasn’t prompted much controversy, the emergence of pop-up galleries has raised eyebrows. Tapping into the high traffic of the event, a few visiting gallerists have rented empty storefronts to serve as temporary art outposts. "[I’ve] gone the last three years and had a blast,” says Andrew Hosner, co-owner of Silver Lake gallery Thinkspace. “There’s just a large majority of Westside folks that won’t come out to our area in Silver Lake, so we decided this year we’d bring our artists to them.”

Thinkspace’s show, “Culver City Invasion,” will feature the work of emerging artists and live painters, and will funnel a portion of sales to the MOCA Contemporaries support organization.

And finally, if you come out to the Artwalk expecting to load up on wine, you may have to wait for the after-party. Most galleries reserve the free booze for opening receptions only, so don’t expect an endless daylong fountain of Chardonnay.

But Royal/T, the gallery and cosplay (short for “costume play”) cafe is the unofficial post-walk hot spot. With a collection of Murakami pieces to gawk at, an open wine bar and a DJ -- plus a gaggle of servers wearing French maid outfits -- it surely trumps 2008’s sleepy reception at the Culver Hotel.

And when will the party wind down? “We’re saying 11 p.m.,” says Nina Savill, event coordinator for Royal/T, “but we’re prepared to . . . go with the flow.”

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alie.ward@latimes.com

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Fourth annual Artwalk Culver City

Where: Culver City Art District; Washington Boulevard from downtown Culver City to Fairfax Avenue, and La Cienega Boulevard between Washington and Venice boulevards.

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When: Noon-8 p.m. Saturday

Price: Free

Contact: (310) 253-5716 or www.culvercity.org


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