Creation Station

Whoever says L.A. isn't an art town hasn't been to funky Bergamot Station, where refined meets underground -- with a Hollywood twist, natch. Actors Ron Livingston and Poppy Montgomery lead a gallery tour.


The trolleys have long stopped running to Santa Monica's Bergamot Station, but a different sort of crowd still gathers today at the eight-acre site, since transformed into SoCal's largest art-gallery complex and cultural center, Celebs like Nicolas Cage, Drew Barrymore and Leonardo DiCaprio (with Gisele in tow) can regularly be seen gallery hopping among the 30-some exhibition spaces (the number's ever-fluctuating) housed in a striking industrial-chic facade. It's part boho, part one-stop artiste shopping.

Almost certainly named for a flower in the mint family that once flourished in the area, Bergamot Station dates back to 1875, when it was a stop on the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad that carried both freight and passengers between downtown L.A. and Santa Monica. As the railways fell into disuse, Bergamot became everything from celery-packing and ice-making plants to a water-heater factory until the city purchased it in 1984 for a never-constructed light-rail line. It was in 1993 when gallery owner Wayne Blank, who had already converted a vacant city-owned airport hangar into artists' studios, helped transform the cluster of five abandoned warehouses--conveniently equipped with soaring ceilings, skylights and a large, central parking lot-into a gallery hub that now attracts over 600,000 visitors a year.

Bergamot's hosted outdoor theater productions, film screenings and even fashion shows, and today the complex includes not just galleries but a jeweler, custom framers, graphic designers and a non-profit secondhand designer clothier. (Marlon Brando's daughter Petra even lives in Bergamot.)

On a pleasantly breezy recent Saturday, The Cooler's Ron Livingston and Poppy Montgomery, star of the hit CBS detective series Without a Trace, rendezvous at Bergamot for a casual gallery stroll. Livingston first came here in 1994 when the art complex was in its infancy. "I remember there only being three or four galleries open at the time," says Livingston, known for his roles in Office Space and HBO's Band of Brothers and Sex and the City. "There's a lot more now. It's come together nicely--this place is so busy, it's crazy."

Montgomery's been to Bergamot before, too. In fact, the Aussie actress is here to pick up three pieces she bought from Peter Fetterman Photographic Works of Art--black-and-white photographs of Eartha Kitt (by Ernst Haas), Bob Dylan (by John Cohen) and Marilyn Monroe (by Henri Cartier-Bresson). Montgomery was a Monroe fan even before playing her in the 2001 miniseries Blonde. "I actually don't buy Marilyn stuff," she says, "but it's an amazing photograph."

Montgomery and Livingston thoughtfully peruse the art by a mix of hot up-and-comers and established names like Ed Moses and Dennis Hopper. "I'm really trying to learn more about art," says Montgomery, especially now that the actress, soon to be seen in the upcoming big-screen romantic comedy 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, is decorating her new Los Feliz home. Among her faves: Aussie artists Peter Kingston and Brett Whitely.

Livingston didn't grow up with much of an art background, either; the art at his home "tended to be motivational posters or the kitten hanging from the tree," he says with a grin.

Livingston, who next charms Brittany Murphy in this fall's Little Black Book, is particularly amused by John Suttman's ersatz furniture at the Gallery of Functional Art. "It's very Dr. Seuss," he opines. The thesp twosome end their tour at BGH Gallery, where they whisper to each other good-natured guesses at the price of one of Owanto's colorful abstract canvases. "We were actually trying to see who was closest," Montgomery says, laughing. "I won--but not by much. We both underestimated."

New Jerzy

Polish artist Jerzy Skolimowski may be known best as a filmmaker--he cowrote Knife in the Water (1962), one of Roman Polanski's early celebrated works, and directed, among others, Deep End (1970), Moonlighting (1982) and The Lightship (1985). He has worked with acclaimed actors such as Jerermy Irons, Robert Duvall, Alan Bates and Nastassja Kinski. But now Skolimowski, who has also been a boxer, a poet and an actor, is rising in stature in the art world for his moody, empyreal--and large-scale--canvases, finding inspiration in everything from King Lear to the Last Supper. "The first time I saw his paintings was a few years ago," writes Julian Schnabel, a fellow artist/director who cast Skolimowski in 2000's Before Night Falls. "They look like abstract works, but under closer looking at, I realized his work is never abstract. It has to do with the figure and the landscape. There is a hazy diary of ghosts and memories--fragments of forms almost forming." But then Skolimowski, who hasn't directed since 1993, has long been an artist, painting between making his acclaimed films. He dazzled Hollywood yet again last year, this time with his exhibit "Skolimowski: Paintings" at Bergamot Station's Off Main Gallery, which has also hosted works by Val Kilmer and Ali Alborzi, George Hurrell, Mike Figgis and Pat York.

Dandy Andy

Endlessly fascinated by celebrity and popular culture, Andy Warhol mined the visages of icons like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe for his celebrated works, so it's only fitting that his art be displayed underneath the bright L.A. sun, only minutes from Hollywood. For their recent exhibition "Martha Graham Unique Silkscreens" (organized with the assistance of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.), Bobbie Greenfield Gallery at Bergamot Station collected three limited-edition and 18 unique Warhol silkscreens of legendary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, originally made in commemoration of the 16th anniversary of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in New York. Graham was among the many luminaries--everyone from Mick Jagger to Truman Capote--to visit Warhol's studio, the Factory, and Warhol based these silkscreens on photographs of Graham by famed photographer Barbara Morgan. The Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, a dealer of contemporary art in L.A. for the past 28 years, specializes in works on paper by American masters of the '60s through the present, including David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana and Roy Lichtenstein.

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