Editor of Los Angeles I’m Yours Kyle Fitzpatrick takes a walk through one of the cities most anomalous destinations.  The Beverly Gardens park resists the definition of a traditional “park” because it’s a place to look and not touch; its manicured lawns are home to prized sculptures that are slowly decaying in the California sun.

You would probably describe it more as a well-manicured distraction than you would a park.  It’s not intended for lounging in the sun nor is it a dedicated tourist destination.  It’s a buffer, a place to deposit people who are unable to shop at the stores on Rodeo, Beverly Drive, and Cañon.  It’s for people who do not live in the houses north of Santa Monica Boulevard.  It’s a strange piece of roadside eye candy that is full of families of cacti, of a handful of gigantic Magnolia trees and sculptures that probably shouldn’t be in the sun unattended for prolonged periods of time.  But they are.  It’s all a strange offering from the City of Beverly Hills to everyone who does not live in Beverly Hills.  It’s a constant performance of diversion that has existed since 1911 when it was built to separate commercial from residential zones.




You can still see this separation by way of a flimsy, chain-link fence hidden behind bushes and trees at the northern edge of the park.  This is a literal physical barrier between you in the park and those in their mansions.  It stretches from the area’s start, at Santa Monica and Doheny, to its finish, at Santa Monica and Wilshire.  At certain points, you can stop and see through the fence, perhaps to gaze down an empty alleyway to find clean trash cans and aged Mercedes-Benz coupes.  You’ll notice as you walk that even the pipes and mechanics of the park are covered in a fence: everything is off limits.

 You feel like the commercial district is off limits, too.  You walk parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard, where cars speed very quickly in order to make it through every light in this regimented traffic corridor.  There are four fat lanes.  There are only two bus stops.  Traveling by foot from the street can be very intimidating, which should not be a surprise because it was once a highway: this stretch of Santa Monica was once the historic Route 66.

 You see each block has a handful of signs that issue rules and suggestions for how to conduct yourself here.  The Beverly Hills seal, a simple and iconic triangular shield, another buffer to keep you on the outside of it, is at the top of every sign, positioned above the park’s name: Beverly Gardens Park.  You cannot camp here, you cannot smoke here, you cannot drink alcohol here, you cannot sell anything, you cannot play games, you cannot ride vehicles, and you cannot climb anything.  This is for your safety and welfare, yes.  But mostly, it’s to remind you not to fuck up the nice garden the city has provided for you.

You can’t fuck up their artwork, either.  It’s just for looking at, these precious, multi-million dollar sculptures that long for some shade or some touch or some sort of interaction beyond the eyes that stare at them from inside of those cars and the occasional landscapers.  Roxy Paine’s Erratic curves and slopes like a metallic mountain, it practically invites you to sunbathe on top of it or perhaps use it to reenact scenes from Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Yayoi Kusama’s Hymn Of Life: Tulips is within eye shot of Erratic and is the most guarded, and likely the most valuable sculpture in the park.  It’s also the only polka dotted anything for miles.  Not even Kusama’s Louis Vuitton bags are to be seen here, an irony she would love.  Jaume Plensa’s Endless V disappears into its surroundings, the characters that make it almost melt away into an invisible lattice.  No one cares to visit.





You can tell these statues have it good, though.  However, Barry Flanagan’s leporine character The Drummer, Tony Smith’s serious and geometric Playground, and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s headless Sitting Figure on a Short Bench have a more difficult time of attracting attention.  Even A. Jacquermat’s Hunter And Hounds don’t get the respect they deserve: pigeons casually walk past it, scoffing at the metal dogs who are unknowingly missing out on prime fowl.



You catch a crowd gathering around a giant Beverly Hills sign.  This is the Beverly Hills monument sign and it is perfect for taking photos in front of.  There is a line of people leading up to it, neatly organized by invisible chaperones who kindly encourage visitors to photograph each other.  The sign hints at past design trends still in the area with deco lamp posts with curving bases, and linear, clinical letters that shout “Beverly Hills” like a grumpy grandfather who wants you off of his lawn.



You see some writing on the trees.  All the trees have carvings in them, crude painted symbols and marks dug onto their skin.  One giant Magnolia tree seems to drip to the ground from the weight of people climbing it and writing things like “Jehovah” and “I love” whomever they had loved. There are hearts, initials and pieces of the tree carved off.  A rolled up blanket hides where an arm meets the trunk.  You know someone lives in the tree: it is a strange symbol of the quiet unrest present in the park.  There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the park being too pretty and too well-thought out.



You know there is a lot of history in this park and a lot of beauty, too.  There’s something fantastical about it: the flowers have names like Topsy Turvy and Moondance written out on placards in front of them.  The trees act as natural canopies above all walkways, reminding you of the Deep South.  There are so many design styles present from the architecture to the landscaping that it feels like you are in a stew of influence; and all visitors feel the need to break at least one of the rules of the park by touching a sculpture or indulging in a cigarette as they walk.  It must be the influence of Kusama’s polka dots, a mashing of patterns that are so bright and so playful that one must crinkle the established expectations and indulge their Id.

You like the problems that this park has.  You like that there is a cowboy hat sitting on a thorny cactus for someone to come back and retrieve.  You like that there is an older man sunbathing in short shorts with a hand down his drawers. You like that you notice weeds growing from under all of the sculptures (and that none have been cleaned for a few weeks.)  You like that everyone in this park does not belong in Beverly Hills and that it is a strange destination of rebellion on the edge.


You like that this person may have seen you touch the stigma of a Kusama tulip.  You like that north or south of you are people who have probably never been to this park, people who have never gotten up close to these precious pieces of public art because they think they are above it: you like that you have subverted their intentions of excluding you from their society.

You might as well climb up that scribbled Magnolia tree, paint your name on its face, and use the blanket that was left there to sleep until they pull you down from it.  Wouldn’t they love that?


All images © of the artist