For the avid art explorer no visit to Los Angeles is complete without a few hours page-turning in arguably one of the world’s finest bookstores. Arcana: Books on the Arts has been the go-to purveyors for specialist, out of print and collectible publications on twentieth-century visual art, architecture, design, photography, film and fashion since 1984.
In 2012, Arcana founder Lee Kaplan relocated from Santa Monica to Culver City’s landmark Art Deco complex at Helms Bakery - a former bread bakery from the 1930s, now transformed into LA’s interior design district.
There is no hint of the Deco on entering the 5000 sq ft space. Bright, white lines welcome visitors into this extensive emporium of over 100,000 items collected by Kaplan himself. A kaleidoscope of covers and spines colour the minimal, monochrome space from floor to ceiling on banks of custom metal shelving. Curated by theme and alphabetised, lowfi subject dividers on upcycled cardboard slot between catalogue raisonnés and monographs of international artists and designers as well as statement tomes on iconic aesthetics, architecture or actors. Elusive publications are designated cabinet space akin to artworks in miniature white cube displays.
If book shops are for bookworms, Arcana is for butterflies. The atmosphere is elegant and serene yet electric with every book unleashed from its plastic sleeve, revealing high-quality imagery produced by the world's leading publishing houses. From little and large to minimal and extravagant, Arcana’s vast range of visual page candy is unparalleled to the bookshelves of even the grandest of museum gift shops and is a testament to its strong client base from the creative worlds of entertainment, design and fashion who visit the shop for inspiration, guided by Kaplan’s comprehensive expertise on the old, the new and the beautiful.
Arcana: Books on the Arts is open Tuesday-Sunday 11am – 7pm
The Historic Helms Bakery
8675 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, Los Angeles CA
Look out for more for future posts reporting on my visit to LA earlier this year where I explored the alternative art and design scenes across the city here on the blog, my Twitter and Instagram.