Broad Horizons

Raved-about repository of contemporary art, the Broad finally descends on Los Angeles.

Written by Jenn Thornton

It would have been easy for billionaire Eli Broad and his wife Edythe to go about their business of amassing great works of postwar and contemporary art to add to their private collection—the largest of its kind in existence. Instead, they’re bringing art to the masses by way of their new museum, The Broad, which has landed in Los Angeles with a buzz heard around the world. As entrée to the museum is completely gratis, the institution is making an art of philanthropy, too—a sweeping act of altruism for a city rich in cultural currency.

With a berth on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Broad gained traction as an architectural marvel even before its September opening, its honeycomb-shelled exterior causing a light-filtering effect that illuminates the work inside, masterpieces from art giants like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ed Ruscha, Jeffrey Koons and Cindy Sherman. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with LA architect Gensler, the $140-million, three-story repository is a study in artistic genius, any way you look at it—and what a perspective.

The take is simply staggering. The first floor occupies the museum shop, a 15,000-square-foot gallery, a space for multimedia and access to a cylindrical glass elevator. Cutting through the middle of the museum, the elevator glimpses the  second floor, which houses the breadth of The Broad’s collection, a truly priceless trove of 2,000-plus photos, paintings and sculpture. The scope and inclusivity astounds; here is the calculation of a 45-year collecting obsession, a passion play for all to see. Finally, on the skylighted environs of the top floor, holdings bear the names of pillars such as Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring.

As a private collection made public, without bureaucratic interference, The Broad is rare in its intimacy. The Broads themselves knew many of the artists whose work is now housed in their museum, associations that thread the place with an element of the uniquely personal. This includes their link to an enigmatic graffiti artist before the boom of Basquiat reverberated throughout the art world.

The Broad’s inaugural exhibition, curated by Joanne Heyler, features 250 works charting the chronology of its founders’ collection, which starts in the 1950s and picks up steam as it moves from the East Village and SoHo enclaves of New York to the present day, en route showing social and political pieces by the likes of Kara Walker and Mike Kelley, along with recent works on view for the first time in Los Angeles. Several spaces are dedicated to single artists.

If The Broad’s maiden presentation is a hint of what’s to come, expect nothing less than fine art.

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