Longtime collectors and philanthropists Eli And Edythe Broad, Los Angeles’s own Medicis, have spent nearly half a century building on the most significant collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. Their latest contribution to the city is a free museum opened in late September that is effectively shifting the West Coast art scene.
The Broad Museum is L.A.’s newest big-deal cultural institution, surrounded by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Housing nearly 2,000 works within the honeycomb-like exoskeleton, the Broad’s inaugural installation is a great trip down the rabbit hole. It’s thoughtful, irreverent, droll, and self-effacing. Though ranging in style and message from more than 200 artists, the works coalesce into a pop cultural land distinctively L.A. and purposefully illusory.
With tickets out for the rest of 2015, Westside Today rounded up the 10 best highlights from the Broad experience.
- The Broad is made of two main components – the veil and the vault. Designed by world-renowned architecture firm Diller Scofidio+ Renfro (DS+R) in collaboration with Gensler, the Broad building stands in stark contrast to its sleek and shiny neighbor, Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Broad’s “veil” is meant to be porous and absorptive, using 2,5000 fiberglass reinforced concrete panels and 650 tons of steel. The “vault,” on the other hand, houses the collection and appears to hover in the middle of the building. This is made up of 36 million pounds of concrete. All this includes 50,000 square feet of gallery space.
- This one’s a can’t-miss, literally. Tunneling through the vault up the 105-foot escalator that takes visitors straight up to the third-floor gallery, one immediately marks Jeff Koons’s Tulips (1995-2004). The diffused northern light from 318 skylights reflects the entire space onto Koons’s multi-colored gleaming tulips. This sense of awe is intentional, setting the tone for the rest of the walkthrough. Koons is later seen again with his inflatable steel pieces like Rabbit and blue Balloon Dog, along with other absurd sculptures like the porcelain Michael and Jackson and Bubbles and Three Ball 50/50 Tank (Two Spalding Dr. J Silver Series, Wilson Supershot. If you’re a Koons fan, the Broad is the place to study American objects and novelty.
- Moving from abstract whatchamacallits, visitors ease on through the looking glass, becoming dwarfs among Robert Therrien’s super-sized dining table set and Fall ’91(1992), a stunning, eight-foot-tall Charles Ray sculpture of a woman in a pink power suit. Trippy and freakish, these pieces effectively turn your brain blank, evoking feelings rather than thoughts.
- Walking around the third floor, visitors are immersed in America’s art history, starting with works by major artists who came to prominence in the 1950s, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Cy Twombly. The Pop art of the 1960s—an area of great depth in the collection—is represented through works by Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol, among others. Ushering in the 1980s, the installation presents a rich concentration of works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, and Jeff Koons. Some favorite pieces include Ruscha’s 1964 Norms, La Cienaga, on Fire and Lichtenstein’s I…I’m Sorry! The third-floor gallery often nods to the city which the Broads and the artists sought inspiration and residence.
- Youth and subversion lend themes to the L.A. installation. Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat took inspiration from graffiti art and street culture to portray sex, drugs, and a New York City ethos that is still celebrated today. These landmark, edgier pieces offer autobiographical and generational considerations. The spray-painted and -inspired paintings force the spectator to think about the art and the artists, not one’s own interpretation.
- Damien Hirst’s weird mixed-media sculptures – created from formaldehyde-suspended carcasses, cigarette butts, pharmaceutical packaging, and surgical instruments, often encased in glass vitrines – are there to shock the Broad visitor. His most famous series, Natural History, features formaldehyde-preserved animals in large tanks, such as Away from the Flock, 1994, in which a sheep is suspended in fluid. For another sobering look into life cycles and exhibition, look to Something Solid Beneath the Surface of All Creatures Great and Small, a massive skeleton terrarium. But for the faint of heart, there is also Hirst’s early “spot paintings” that fit into the Warholian tradition of repetitive, clean images.
- The installation continues on the first floor featuring works from the millennium through the present, including an immersive nine-screen video piece by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson (The Visitors) and a chilling drawing of the police in Ferguson, Mo. The preferred pieces here is Thomas Struth’s Audience series, 2004, in which he mounted his camera at the base of one of the most famous and celebrated sculptures in the world, Michelangelo’s Davidat the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. This meta-experience results in an imaginary exchange that sees a museum from an artwork’s perspective.
- After, you walk into the Takashi Murakami room, where the longest artwork in the collection is In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, which measures 82 feet long. With 11 works in the Broad collection, Murakami’s bold, graphic works merge fine art, design and animation and continue to blur the lines between high art and pop culture.
- People watching and the Shop at the Broad are one of the last main attractions at the museum. The Broad has thousands of visitors a week from all over the area, making it one of the best places to run into friends or eye artists and cultured spirits of Los Angeles. The Shop features artwork you can buy from represented artists, art books, art tchotchkes, etc. Even though the museum’s free, you’ll most likely end up buying souvenirs to showcase your artistic awareness.
- Finally, before you experience all of this, reserve your tickets to Yoyoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away on the first floor next to the Shop. This experiential artwork has limited capacity, accommodating one visitor at a time for approximately 45 seconds, and will require a separate free timed ticket, which general admission ticket holders will be able to reserve after arrival at the museum. If you haven’t seen the pictures on Instagram or heard about it word-of-mouth, this is the mirrored “infinity” room, a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display. Take photos, bask in the lights, and end your museum visit with this ethereal soul-cleanse.