Author: Malcolm MacLeod
Walking through the cavernous entrance of Downtown’s new and long-awaited contemporary art museum, The Broad, is an exhibition experience like none other. The building itself is a work of art, and within it lie some of the greatest pieces of our time. Over 250 pieces are on display from over 60 artists, including some of the most renowned names in contemporary art — Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jean-Michel Basquiat and many more.
The Broad Museum opened its first installation Sunday. Eli Broad, former CEO of Fortune 500 companies KB Home and SunAmerica Inc., and his wife Edythe have worked toward Sunday’s grand opening for decades. Since 1984, The Broad Foundation has built and shared a collection of over 8,000 pieces of artwork, displayed in galleries and museums around the world.
Of particular interest to the Broads is contemporary art.
“Contemporary art is the art of our time,” Eli Broad said at the press preview Sept. 16. “It reflects an important social, political and cultural commentary on the world in which we live.”
The Broad’s collection is a who’s who of contemporary art giants, beginning with works from the mid-20th century and spanning into present day.
The exhibition begins with with mid-century pieces by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and others.
Next up is the pop art movement of the 1960s, which is well represented by the works of Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol. Some of Warhol’s most iconic works are on display, such as his portraits of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and the world-famous Campbell’s Soup cans. A particularly fascinating Warhol up for view is entitled “Big Electric Chair.” As the name of the piece suggests, it depicts a lone electric chair sitting in a room, omitting ominous energy and amplified by dramatic planes of blue and gray.
The area which perhaps shines brightest is the collected works from the ’80s and ’90s. This section highlights the paintings of two artistic titans who tragically passed long before their time: Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. These two used the gritty style of street art as an avenue to break into the world of fine art, changing the status quo. Basquiat’s work seems stylistically simple, but challenges patrons with its ambiguous social commentaries. Haring’s works, with their exaggerated human forms and chaotic compositions, beg for more than just a moment’s contemplation.
The breadth of work at the Broad Museum is immense, from Salvador Dali’s absurd sculptural use of a sheep to Jeff Wall’s stirring, shudder-inducing photographs of dead and dying soldiers at war.
But the museum’s contents are not its only attraction; the building itself is an architectural feat. Neighboring Frank Gerry’s famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, the architects at Diller Scofidio + Renfro had their work cut out for them when designing the Broad.
The architecture of the museum is fascinatingly organic, with an exterior resembling coral, according to Head Architect Elizabeth Diller. The ‘veil’, as Diller dubbed the exterior, leads patrons from the luminous LA street into a cavernous space, resembling a polished subterranean cave. Patrons are then funneled up through a narrow channel into the gallery space by a single escalator.
Once there, visitors can expect a floor staff well-versed in the technique and history behind each piece of art, as well as information about the building itself and the downtown neighborhood.
And thanks to the generous endowment of the Broad Art Foundation, visitors to the Broad Museum will never have to pay for admission. According to Founding Director Joanne Heyler, over 85,000 guests have already made reservations to take in the museum’s star-studded collection at particular times, but a reservation is not necessary — walk-in visits are always free of charge.
“From my earliest days working with the Broads, what resonated most for me was their unwavering commitment to two things: the artists and connecting art with the public,” Heyler said at the press preview.
Mayor Eric Garcetti also spoke at the preview and was enthusiastic about what the Broad means for the future of art in Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles is certainly the right home for the Broad,” Garcetti said. “Downtown is the right home, not because of Hollywood glitz or glamour, but because this city is thriving. We are nurturing artists and architects, entrepreneurs and innovators, darers and doers.”
The Broad is open Tuesday through Sunday, and can be reached through the Civic Center/Grand Park Stations by way of the purple or red line located at First and Hill Streets. The museum is a 0.4 mile walk from the station.
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