Los Angeles’ newest thing is 25 years in the making, but you’re still going to have to wait to see it…in line, that is.
The Broad opened its doors this past September, and as is to be expected of a contemporary art museum named after and commissioned by billionaire philanthropist, Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, it’s reveal was met with a protracted waiting list, long in advance of the museum’s star-studded inaugural gala celebration.
The patriarch of the Broads, who sits at number 65 on the “2015 Forbes 400 list,” is a patron of the arts—the rare, superhuman kind that marries being a major donor to museums with flexing prowess on their boards. Before financing his $140 million museum to share his family’s private art collection with fellow cultural enthusiasts, Broad acted as the founding chairman of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, where he is now a life trustee, as he is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Add on his current role as: a trustee of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution (by appointment of the U.S. Congress and the President), and it’s evident that Broad is inextricable from the cultural fabric of not only the city of Los Angeles, but America.
“Los Angeles would be a very different place without the Broads’ support and determination connected to projects from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles to Walt Disney Concert Hall to now The Broad museum,” says Joanne Heyler, the latter museum’s Founding Director.
Superhuman in this regard though Mr. Broad and his wife may be, they remain one with the people, and The Broad is, quite literally, concrete proof of this fact.
The Broad is a material and visceral translation of its founders’ desire to connect the greater public with contemporary art. It’s about more than the free general admission to view The Broad’s permanent collection; it’s in the architecture itself.
“DS+R’s design made manifest many of Mr. Broad’s philanthropic and civic ideals,” explains Heyler. “Engaging and enlivening pedestrian life along Grand Avenue has been a longtime goal for the Broads, and DS+R’s design spoke to that dynamic in a very practical yet poetic way.”
The brainchild of the New York-based architecture firm, in collaboration with the Gensler firm, The Broad gives its neighbour, Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, to which it is adjacent, a run for Grand Avenue.
Intentionally its neighbour’s opposite, The Broad’s bright metallic perforated roof, or “veil” as its architects know it, is porous and honeycomb-like—a harmonious contrast to the smooth exterior of Gehry’s building. The structure’s futuristic—and green—design absorbs light, filtering it into the public exhibition space with the help of 318 skylight monitors on its roof, installed to catch sunlight from the north. Harvested and streamed down onto museumgoers, the natural light renders a sense of openness befitting the museum’s mission to make their collection of contemporary art “accessible to the widest possible audience.”
The building’s central mass, known as “the vault,” acts as storage for artworks, laboratories, curatorial spaces and offices. Its curvaceous concrete form shapes the museum’s public spaces, and communicates an opaque presence that fosters a sense of wholeness and transparency between the process of patrons visiting the art and the museum’s storing of the art.
Three-stories high with 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, The Broad houses an almost 2,000-piece collection of contemporary art by an impressive variety of 200 artists, ranging from the 1950s to the present, including works by icons the likes of Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons (whose porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles statue is featured above), Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Roy Liechtenstein.
In true Broad fashion, special exhibitions and installations embrace the museum founders’ dedication to supporting the industry’s modern mavericks, as well as nurturing young talent. Most recently, the museum has played host to Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” Ragnar Kjartansson’s expansive nine-screen video installation, entitled, “The Visitors” and Goshka Macuga’s photo-tapestry, “Death of Marxism, Women of All Lands Unite.”
“They will always be a lens through which to learn more about the collection and the artists the Broads have collected in-depth,” says Heyler of The Broad’s displayed works and upcoming exhibitions.
Not all, though, are as enamored with The Broad as the under 40 set lining up to see (and take a selfie in front of) the museum’s multiple works by Japan’s reigning paragon of art, Takashi Murakami. Take The Washington Post and their suggestion that “the problem with The Broad is the collection itself,” which is, according to their writer, dominated by “high-end trash.”
To this we say, if Koons is pedestrian, than we’re happy to have “average” tastes. The Broad is for the people, and sometimes, what critics may deem high-end trash, we average folk call art.
Below, the museum’s Founding Director, Joanne Heyler, speaks to FILLER about building the bond between The Broad and would-be-art-patrons, the museum’s part in opening the mind of the American art world and her own part in developing Los Angeles’ hottest new art destination, alongside those superhuman art enthusiasts, the Broads.
What makes The Broad unique?
The experience visitors have at the museum is one of art and architecture together. DS+R brilliantly designed the building so that the architecture is both dramatic and subtle. The lobby and transitional spaces between floors are sculptural and unexpected—but in the galleries themselves, our collection of art, spanning five decades, takes center stage.
What led you personally to The Broad?
I actually began my career right across the street from where The Broad now stands on Grand Avenue, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), as an intern. A few years later, after obtaining a graduate degree at the Courtauld Institute in London, I began working with the then-tiny staff of The Broad Art Foundation facilitating Eli and Edythe Broad’s collecting and lending programs, and documenting the collection. The Broads were becoming well-known at that time as adventurous and aggressive collectors and significant philanthropists, but I would not have predicted at that time the journey that lay ahead.
I imagine the evolution of your course with the Broads must have been quite an eventful one.
Over the past 25 years, my work has continuously evolved, and I have had rare, behind the scenes access to, not just important artists and events, but also to cultural and civic initiatives that have shaped the city in which I grew up…and that is quite profound for me.
How does the architecture of the building contribute to the concept of open art?
We wanted a building that could do two things—show contemporary art in a beautiful way, but also store the 2,000 and counting works in the collection. DS+R’s concept of “the veil and the vault” was an elegant solution to these issues, and also utilized the idea of access and openness.
Can you explain how the veil and vault complement one another?
The vault houses the collection storage and back of house functions; it’s at the heart of the building between two floors of exhibition space. The veil, which is the lattice like shell on the outside of the building, allows almost a full acre of top-floor, column free space, and is designed to carefully filter natural light into the galleries.
What’s the benefit of storing the art on premise?
Having collection storage onsite and easily accessible makes our collection (even while not on view) available for study by scholars and curators, which furthers The Broad Art Foundation’s lending program.
In that way, it’s a bit like a library. What inspired the Broads to build the museum and share their private collection?
A passion for great art and their unique enthusiasm for Los Angeles as a cultural capital. The Broads have lived in Los Angeles for more than 50 years, after moving from Detroit, and have been dedicated for many years to improving LA, particularly its cultural scene.
The Broad definitely helps to nurture that scene.
I think of the arts institutions in any city as a cultural ecosystem of sorts, multiple venues and multiple approaches keep things interesting for a growing public audience. The appetite among the public in L.A., visitors and locals alike, for the kind of experience of art The Broad offers is strong…as can be seen by the fact that our advance free reservations are booked out for over two months!