Public Art Walk Through Bunker Hill

Rose for Lilly Disney Hall
A Rose for Lilly at Disney Hall. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

Let's Go See Some Art...

Once home to romantic Victorian mansions and sycamore trees that overlooked a young Los Angeles, Bunker Hill has been transformed into the cultural heart of the city’s glittering skyline. Architectural masterpieces like Frank Gehry’s stunning Walt Disney Hall shaped like an abstract rose, the red brick and glass pyramids that top the Museum of Contemporary Art by Arata Isozaki, and the vision-warping Broad Museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro are Bunker Hill’s mansions of today. These buildings hold some of the most important modern and contemporary art in the world. But outside these stunning collections, the neighboring streets are filled with world class public artworks as well. No need to buy a ticket or wait in line— just bring a pair of walking shoes and your imagination.

"Angelus" mural by Robert Vargas in Downtown LA
"Angelus" by Robert Vargas | Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
"Angelus" mural by Robert Vargas in Downtown LA
"Angelus" by Robert Vargas | Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

Angelus Mural (Ongoing) by Robert Vargas

Starting around Pershing Square, look East to see the massive Angelus mural overlooking the park by LA native artist Robert Vargas. Angelus celebrates LA diversity– at the top of the mural are three angels: one is modeled after Vargas’ mother, another represents a homeless woman who would watch Vargas while he was painting the mural, the third is not defined. Below the angels is an indigenous girl from the Tongva tribe, who originally populated the Los Angeles basin. Her hands form the sign “unity” in American Sign Language. Vargas paints her as an original Angeleno, overlooking her city. In 2020, Vargas added Kobe Bryant flying through a blue sky waving his fist triumphantly as an homage to the late basketball legend. The mural is still alive and in progress– Vargas is working to be entered in the Guinness World Record book for the largest mural painted completely freehand by a single artist.

Bill Barrett sculpture
LA Family Baroque by Bill Barrett. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Bill Barrett sculpture

"LA Family Baroque" (1992) by Bill Barrett

Begin a three-minute walk down 5th Street toward the Los Angeles Public Library. Stop at the One Bunker Hill Building. In the art deco enclave marked by the ‘Torrey Pines Bank’ sign is Los Angeles sculptor Bill Barrett’s LA Family Baroque. This work is a large-scale bronze sculpture that evokes the traffic of busy bodies as they bustle through a humming lunch hour on Bunker Hill. Forms stretch out from the sculpture’s center in the same way that arms swing on power walking passersby; from certain angles, a profile of a face can be seen in the overlapping bronze forms. Who is the face? The work’s title suggests it could be you, me, or anyone else living in this LA family.

Double Ascension
Double Ascension by Herbert Bayer. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench
Double Ascension

"Double Ascension" (1969) by Herbert Bayer

Continue your walk down 5th Street toward the Los Angeles Public Library, walk past its entrance and make a left into the Maguire Gardens. Take a moment to linger in the unique Islamic architecture-inspired gardens. Then head straight through towards Flower Street. You will see Double Ascension pretty quickly– sculptor and typographer Herbert Bayer’s fire orange staircases ascending out of a sixty-foot diameter circular pool of water. The piece was originally titled “Stairway to Nowhere,” but the oil company that originally commissioned it found that title too bleak a commentary on capitalism. The work is prominently featured in a scene from the thriller Marathon Man (1976) starring Dustin Hoffman. Spend time with this climbing work– try sitting in different spots on the benches encircling the piece. It is mesmerizing, maybe even eerie from certain angles…


Now walk over to 444 South Flower, the Citigroup Center, where you will find artworks by some of the most important modern and contemporary artists.

Heizer at 444 S Flower
North East South West by Michael Heizer. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench
Heizer at 444 S Flower

"North East South West" (1981) by Michael Heizer

At the Dia Art Foundation museum in Beacon, New York, Michael Heizer originally created North, East, South, West (1967) – geometrically shaped, massive craters in the museum’s stone ground. That work asks viewers to meditate on negative space and crater forms as symbols of mother earth, and how she constantly gives back to humanity. Heizer was then commissioned to recreate the piece in the 444 S Flower St lobby, but the building’s structure would not allow for the necessary depressions in the ground. Instead, Heizer made the steel, geometric, solid shapes that would fit into the craters in Dia Beacon. Each shape symbolizes a different direction– North (rectangle), South (cone), East (frustum), West (wedge). On opposite sides of the country, these two artworks call to each other – they even go by the same name.

Heizer at 444 S Flower
North East South West by Michael Heizer. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Frank Stella at 444 S Flower
Long Beach XXIII by Frank Stella. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"Long Beach XXIII" (1982) by Frank Stella

Continue to the back of the lobby, past the Heizer, and find a Frank Stella sculptural work, Long Beach XXIII, hanging on the wall. Stella is known for his minimalist compositions, but this work feels maximalist. It is one of 95 works from Stella’s “Circuit” series. A major facet of Stella’s practice is abstracting things he sees in daily life. This work is an abstraction of automobile speedways. Thinking of its Los Angeles context, the piece reflects our freeways that twist like rollercoasters.

Frank Stella at 444 S Flower
Long Beach XXIII by Frank Stella. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"Fargo Podium" (1982) by Robert Rauschenberg

Go up the escalators to the second floor of the Citigroup Center and find Fargo Podium to your right. Looking more like a large, plastic, colorful bench platform than a sculpture, this Rauschenberg sculpture is overlooked by almost every passerby. Rauschenberg once said: “I think a picture is more like the real world when it is made out of the real world.” A closer look at the piece reveals collages of historical photographs and writings, forming patterns underneath the plastic exterior. Stay a while and observe people’s interactions with this work. It is amusing to see someone plop down on an original Rauschenberg to finish their phone call, or prop their foot on it to tie their shoelace.

Rauschenberg at 444 S Flower
Fargo Podium by Robert Rauschenberg. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Nauman sculpture
Trench, Shafts, Pit, Tunnel, and Chambers by Bruce Nauman. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench
Nauman sculpture

"Trench, Shafts, Pit, Tunnel, and Chambers" (1982) by Bruce Nauman

Up the next set of escalators and to the right will be a sunny courtyard. Here is Bruce Nauman’s metal sculpture, Trench, Shafts, Pit, Tunnel, and Chambers, in communication with the courtyard’s view of the public library. Nauman’s solid pyramid forms, balanced on circle frames, reflect the colorful pyramid cap atop of the public library. Nauman’s body of work spans many mediums and, to some, feels inconsistent or incoherent. But a through line exists in Nauman’s study of gaps and holes– stories, reflections, and imitations come to life in his use of negative space.

Di Suvero sculpture
Shoshone by Mark di Suvero. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"Shoshone" (1981) by Mark di Suvero

Retreat from that courtyard, and head back down the escalator. Now turn right towards the elevator bank, and walk down the hallway until you find another courtyard similar to the Nauman’s – equally peaceful and sunny a respite. Shoshone, Mark di Suvero’s massive red sculpture, dominates the space. It is visible from the street below and pokes into the vista from neighboring buildings. Di Suvero is an iconic abstract expressionist metal sculptor who specializes in large-scale, welded works like this one. Shoshone’s form is an easel-like A-frame, built from massive, industrial slabs of metal similar to that which comprises the surrounding skyscrapers. From certain angles it looks like the Westin Bonaventure hotel is actually propped, like a painting, on Shoshone’s giant easel.

Di Suvero sculpture
Shoshone by Mark di Suvero. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"Source Figure" (1991) by Robert Graham

Head back towards the escalators that brought you to the Nauman courtyard and make a left to find yourself on the Bunker Hill Steps. For more information about the steps check out the Angels Walk Los Angeles stanchion behind the sculpture. These steps link Hope Street to 5th Street and were modeled after Rome’s Spanish Steps. A trained hawk and his handler often perch at the top of these steps - it is a great place to see the hawk up close. Also at the top of these steps will be Robert Graham’s Source Figure – an elevated, idealized female figure representing a woman as a vision of Mother Earth, a symbol for the continuum of life moving through downtown. Life flourishes all around the Bunker Hill steps– green plants spill onto the tread, people buzz about, and water flows from Source Figure.

Source Figure by Robert Graham
Source Figure by Robert Graham. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Ulysses Alexander Liberman
Ulysses by Alexander Liberman. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench

"Ulysses" (1987) by Alexander Liberman

Walk uphill on Hope Street. At the first intersection will be Alexander Liberman’s bright white, twisting, looping, funneling Ulysses. Liberman was a Ukrainian-American magazine editor, photographer, painter, and sculptor. In a 1986 interview with Bomb Magazine, Liberman said that he identified his works of art with the aesthetic of screams. Spend some time looking at this work from different angles; it is particularly magical if you stand close and look up – a scream swirling up against the sky and the Bunker Hill skyscrapers.

Ulysses Alexander Liberman
Ulysses by Alexander Liberman. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Mind Body Spirit Graetz
Mind Body Spirit by Gidon Graetz. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"Mind Body Spirit" (1986) by Gidon Graetz

Directly across the street is Gidon Graetz’s Mind Body Spirit. Its mirrored surface is reminiscent of the famous, reflective Chicago Bean sculpture by Anish Kapoor. Graetz is an Israeli sculptor known for his mastery of metalworking, which is apparent in this form: Mind Body Spirit is somewhere between earthly and completely alien. Soaring metal warps the world around Mind Body Spirit. It is difficult to tell whether it is more in fellowship with the plants at its base or the skyscrapers soaring above it.

Mind Body Spirit Graetz
Mind Body Spirit by Gidon Graetz. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
"Four Arches" sculpture by Alexander Calder at Bank of America Plaza in Downtown LA
"Four Arches" by Alexander Calder | Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
Calder sculpture

"Four Arches" (1974) by Alexander Calder

Continuing down Hope Street, the Bank of America park will be on your left. Terraces of grassy plots and trees converge at a circular court enlivened with three waterfalls that tumble into a central pool surrounded by weeping willows. It is the perfect spot to sprawl out for a break, while observing Alexander Calder’s Four Arches. Featured in the new Barbie movie among various others, Four Arches is something of a Hollywood star.  The sculpture’s massive, bright orange limbs stretch across the plaza like a giant, looming mantis. Sit atop the highest level of the park and study the passersby that have grown accustomed to the bold sculpture, as they shuttle in and out of the Bank of America center. It is curious to watch business people treat this giant, abstract construction with such familiarity.

Crocker Fountain Figures
Crocker Fountain Figures
Crocker Fountain Figures. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

Crocker Fountain Figures (1983) by Robert Graham

Exit the park and find the corner of Hope Street and 4th Street again. Head up the gray, diagonal staircase and find yourself in a sculpture garden of sorts, placed down the sides of the walkway. Robert Graham’s Crocker Fountain Figures accompany you down the path, popping out of fountains in gymnastic poses. Mexican-born, Angeleno sculptor Robert Graham is best known for his bronze sculptures celebrating the human figure. You saw his work Source Figure on the Bunker Hill steps. There are Graham masterpieces throughout all of Los Angeles.

Night Sail Nevelson
Night Sail Nevelson
Night Sail by Louise Nevelson. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench
Night Sail Nevelson

"Night Sail" (1985) by Louise Nevelson

Continuing down this same winding path that connects Hope Street to Grand Avenue, you will come upon Louise Nevelson’s daunting Night Sail. Nevelson is known for her monochromatic wood and outdoor sculptures. Nevelson chose to paint most of her sculptures entirely black to convey a sense of unity and totality; rather than symbolizing nothingness or oblivion, the color black, which is composed of every color, symbolized everything to Nevelson. From Night Sail’s dark, brooding conglomerate explodes playful, familiar forms. Standing close and look up.

Angels Flight
Angels Flight
Grand Central Market in Downtown LA
Grand Central Market in Downtown LA  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Landmarks and Food Stop

The end of this winding pathway leads to Grand Avenue, where Los Angeles’ innovative museums and world-class performance spaces reside: The Broad, MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Music Center. Cross Grand Avenue and continue straight to the upper level of the California Plaza. At the very top is Angels Flight. From the upper level platform, look down to see the bench from the movie (500) Days of Summer starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If you need a snack, hop on the Angel’s Flight railway, which will take you down the hill and land you right across the street from Grand Central Market, to explore some of the best food in all of Los Angeles.


Once you have had your snack, ride back up Angels Flight because there is more public art to discover.

Bill and Coo at Moca's Nest
Bill and Coo at MOCA's Nest by Larry Bell. Photos: Chela Simon-Trench
Bill and Coo at Moca's Nest

"Bill and Coo at MOCA’s Nest" (2019) by Larry Bell

Walk down Grand Avenue toward MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). Find its main courtyard to see the sculptural installation Bill and Coo at MOCA’s Nest by Larry Bell, made of bright red laminated glass. Bell’s title refers to a peculiar 1948 film, Bill and Coo, which featured a cast made up entirely of trained birds. Bell’s forms communicate with MOCA’s sunken plaza space, creating the feeling that the surrounding architecture are the walls of a nest. The two glass boxes which symbolize the protagonist pair of lovebirds from the movie. They “bill and coo” in MOCA’s plaza nest. This work is most alive during golden hour, just before sunset, when slanted sunbeams dance through the laminated glass. More than just Larry Bell’s nest for Bill and Coo, MOCA is filled with incredible artworks curated beautifully into some of the most original exhibitions in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Brad Branson, Jean-Michel Basquiat in Los Angeles
Jean-Michel Basquiat in Los Angeles. Photo: Brad Branson
Keith Haring "Untitled" at The Broad
Photo: Keith Haring, "Untitled," 1982. Baked enamel on metal. The Broad Art Foundation. © Keith Haring Foundation

A Few More Cultural Landmarks That You Should Not Miss:

Continue north on Grand Avenue to The Broad Museum to explore world-class modern and contemporary art. Their special exhibition space is featuring the largest retrospective of Keith Haring’s work (in the world) until Oct. 8, 2023.


When you leave the Broad, turn left and cross the street to The Grand LA, where King Pleasure, an immersive exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work, is on view until Oct. 15, 2023. Next door, stop for a special rooftop meal from Michelin-starred chef José Andrés at the delicious Agua Viva restaurant on the rooftop of the Conrad Hotel. Across the street is the gleaming, titanium Walt Disney Concert Hall. Turn left onto 2nd Street toward REDCAT Theater, an art gallery and performance space adjacent to the larger concert hall. Their current exhibition features a series of double sided paintings and a sound installation by Texas-born artist and musician Lisa Alvarado.

Disney Hall
Disney Hall. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench

"A Rose For Lilly" (2003) by Frank Gehry

As you arrive at the corner of Walt Disney Concert Hall on 2nd Street and Grand Avenue, walk up the first staircase on your left. This will take you right into the Blue Ribbon Garden to see Frank Gehry’s A Rose for Lilly. When Gehry was asked to create a sculptural tribute for Lillian Disney, the benefactor of Disney Hall, he combined her love of Royal Blue Delft porcelain with her favorite flower to create this perfect fountain sculpture. Compared to the steel face of Disney Hall that rises above the sculpture, A Rose for Lilly is an unexpectedly tender creation by Gehry. Warmth emanates from the sculpture into the surrounding garden, where there is perfectly dappled shade with the sound of water trickling through the fountain. If you wanted to add a stop for peaceful meditation on this walk, it would be right here.

A Rose for Lilly at Disney Hall
A Rose for Lilly by Frank Gehry. Photo: Chela Simon-Trench
People Portraits Faith Ringgold
People Portraits by Faith Ringgold. Photo: Mosaika

People Portraits (2009) by Faith Ringgold

At the end of the pathway that snakes through the Blue Ribbon Garden is a set of stairs. Head down, make a right, and walk downhill on 1st Street. Make a left when you hit Hill St and walk through Grand Park, the site of many awesome outdoor music events in the summertime. Look for the Civic Center station sign, which should be on your right. This Los Angeles metro stop is home to a true hidden gem of public artwork. Go down the escalators to find 52 glass mosaics designed by Faith Ringgold, an ingenious American artist best known for her quilts that tell the untold stories of marginalized people. Each of the People Portraits is a personification of creativity, energy, and music – Ringgold intended this piece to reflect the life that exists around the Civic Center. Commuters make their way through this metro stop with Ringgold’s boxers, models, surfers, and artists dancing alongside them on pink tiled walls.

The Bradbury Building in Downtown LA
The Bradbury Building  |  Photo: Discover Los Angeles

The Bradbury Building

Continue downhill on 1st Street and make a left onto Broadway. Walk two long blocks toward the intersection of Broadway and 3rd to find the glorious Bradbury Building. Its simple brick facade protects the absolutely majestic, Victorian architectural marvel inside. Light streams from the skylight onto three wooden and metal tiers, accessible via a vintage birdcage-style elevator. Featured in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), it is worth taking a detour to step into the building’s lobby. If you are in need of a pick-me-up, there is a Blue Bottle Coffee shop right next door. For a meal, you will be across the street from the Grand Central Market mentioned above.

"The Pope of Broadway" mural in Downtown LA
"The Pope of Broadway" by Eloy Torrez | Photo: Google Arts & Culture

"The Pope of Broadway" (1985) by Eloy Torrez

The next public art destination is on the Victor Clothing Company building – the mural peeks out at you from the windows of Blue Bottle coffee. The Pope of Broadway is a 100-foot tall mural of Mexican actor Anthony Quinn from his Oscar-winning role, Zorba the Greek. Painted by muralist Eloy Torrez, Quinn is shown dancing as he did so famously in the movie. Public Art in Public Places organized a virtual exhibition about the mural with Google – check it out, it's terrific!


Two other special murals are painted on the other faces of the Victor Clothing Company building – The Bride and Groom (1985) by Kent Twitchell and El Nuevo Fuego (1985) by East Los Streetscapers. Round the corner once, then twice to check out these wonderful artworks.

If You Crave More Art…

That is it for this Bunker Hill art walk!


If you are craving more exploring, some notable nearby spots include Joseph Young’s Triforium in Fletcher Bowron Square, Lita Albuquerque’s Celestial Source in Grand Hope Park, and Terry Allen’s satirical Corporate Head at 725 S. Figueroa St.


One of my absolute favorites is a public artwork steeped in Los Angeles history and controversy. Make your way to LA's’ origins, the festive Olvera Street, to see the restored David Alfaro Siquieros mural América Tropical at the America Tropical Interpretive Center. Siquieros was one of the most famous Mexican muralists. Painted in 1932, Siquieros’ mural was entirely whitewashed 1938 by city leaders for its critical portrayal of American capitalism. It remained painted over for 40 years until it was restored by the Getty Foundation in 2012.


These pieces are worth the extra journey.