America’s best car museum reopens after a year on hiatus and a near $100 Million reinvention.
photography by me, and courtesy the Petersen Automotive Museum
Los Angeles California’s Petersen Automotive Museum had been closed to the public for a little over a year, but not at all out of business. It’s been to the spa for a more than full body makeover. Opened in 1994, it was long the apple of the eyes of American specialty publishing doyens and world class car collectors Margie and Robert E. Petersen. A decade earlier, the Petersens purchased an abandoned department store building on Wilshire Blvd. at the West end of L.A.’s museum district. The property was remodeled into a proper museum with education, and the preservation of Los Angeles car culture and transportation history being its prime themes.
The Petersens have both since passed away, leaving a highly qualified group of West Coast business and automotive experts in charge. The museum remained viable as a prime attraction, but the physical plant was becoming dated.
Building architecture, museum design and exhibitcraft have evolved manifold since the mid-1990s. So the board of directors and the museum’s considerable support group decided the property and concept needed a complete reboot into something that would really dazzle and excite. A team of architects, designers, curators, researchers, contractors and project managers was assembled to reconceive the museum in every way possible, remaining within the footprint of the current building. The old floors were gutted, for the creation of more open, modern, dramatic gallery space inside.
Architectural firms were engaged to create an exterior that would literally and figuratively stop traffic, in the way other dramatic “architectural statement” properties do. The teams devised an Avant garde exterior look comprised of red painted panels, and an intricate web of girders and beams mounting sweeping and cascading stainless steel ribbons creating an utterly unique visage.
The board undertook a fundraising effort of just over $100 Million, for the design and construction plus endowment reserves. The results are successful beyond words from the moment you approach the property until you’ve seen and done it all.
The elegant new galleries are presented topically; via spaces encompassing history, hot rodding, technology, motorsports, design, art, and significant star cars.
Among our favorites is the “Precious Metal” gallery, containing only prime filet machines that are painted silver.
Lest you worry about being subjected to an overpriced museum cafeteria with lousy food and sticky tables and chairs. Instead, the Drago Group is soon opening an upscale Italian Ristorante on the Museum’s ground floor. The Drago brothers hail from Sicily, owning a fleet of first class Italian restaurants in Southern California, and are also known for catering many LA area A-List parties and affairs.
The New Petersen Automotive Museum is a superlative place to visit and revisit. You will be educated and entertained, with all senses satisfied.
Lots more photos below.
The Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, California, 90036 USA
1-323/930-2277 Open daily; 10am – 6pm