CHUNG KING ROAD is a 500-foot pedestrian alley in the northeast corner of Chinatown, Los Angeles. This street is a part of “New Chinatown,” built in the 1930s and 1940s, and is the location of Chinese specialty shops and art importers. In the late 1990s many of the storefronts were sitting unused, and several of them were converted into art galleries. As part of an overall gentrification of the area, Chung King Road is now one of the centers of art and nightlife in Downtown Los Angeles.
During the day, the little alley of Chung King Road, Los Angeles — only some 40 feet wide — is bare and quiet. The occasional lone straggler might make his way through the alley, a shortcut to get to Chinatown’s main attractions. But on art opening nights, which occur on Saturdays every few weeks, throngs of LA art enthusiasts come to check out the latest in a new wave of galleries settling into Chung King Road’s less-than-shiny streetscape.
It’s a strange and somewhat romantic scene, with the alley’s lanterns and worn-out gallery facades, as if pulled from some derelict 1950s movie set. Yet, it’s a scene that has become a new center for art in Los Angeles. Some describe it as a displaced Westside arts district — hip, edgy and young. And while the art is breaking boundaries, the galleries are still paying tribute to the culture of Chinatown; many have kept the original storefront names. Check out some of the galleries anchoring the growing art scene in Chinatown.