Grand opening: welcome to the Broad Museum
A fresh addition to the contemporary art scene and downtown skyline, The Broad museum opened on Sept. 20. The museum’s namesake is the same family that funded SMC’s Broad Stage and Performing Arts Center. Eli and Edythe Broad (pronounced like “road”) are big players in LA’s art scene, funding art buildings and collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, UCLA and more through their art foundation.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation strives to “[foster] public appreciation of contemporary art by increasing access for audiences worldwide.” This explains why the new museum’s admission is free, with tickets near-booked through December.
The art starts before one even steps foot through the door. The Broad is already known for its modern architecture, with a white honeycomb shell encasing a solid, glass and cement bunker. The museum finds itself lain in welcome territory, sandwiched next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and across from the MOCA.
Walking through the front doors, viewers are immediately met with a single melting lamp-post, which seems to be a fun tease on the iconic “Urban Lights” at LACMA, and a tribute to the recently-late Chris Burden. From there, attendees follow a path of concrete and plaster through the temporary exhibits on the first floor.
The exhibits as a whole are home to a historical mishmash of contemporary art, with subjects as vast and relevant as Michael Jackson and Karl Marx. The collection predictably does a good job of hosting big names, but lacks diversity in the artist roster.
The highlight installation is Yayoi Kusama's, “Infinity Mirrored Room,” a mirror-lined room decorated by star-like LED lights, spanning on infinitely in the endless reflection. First premiered in New York, the installation’s one person capacity gained itself notoriety in the art world. Each viewer spends up to 45 seconds in the room, taking selfies and star-gazing as they please. Though the time limit may seem short, the intimate experience leaves a lasting impression with all viewers.
The rest of the first floor is small, with most of the rooms only holding a couple, mostly unfamiliar pieces in them. Out of the selection, Takashi Murakami’s colorful, anime-esque murals stand the tallest, spanning all four walls of the largest room. Littering the floor are life-size sculptures by Murakami, bubbly Japanese figures formed of metal and paint.
Making way through the building via elevator or stairs, onlookers get a peer into the Broad’s expansive, on-site art vault. The vault is home to over 2,000 pieces of art, all in Broad’s name, and is visible through windows, tucked in the center of the building, making it almost a piece itself.
Upstairs, the permanent collection prominently gives space to pop art kings Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring. With many bright and oversized pieces, the pop collection has almost too many eye-catching works, leaving little room to breathe.
In one corner of the floor sits a colossal dining room set entitled “Under the Table” by Robert Therrien. An initially exciting piece, viewers are turned off by the “look, don’t touch” policy put in place by the museum. While understandable for the sake of preserving the art, those giant chairs are almost begging to be climbed upon.
The permanent collection also hosts pieces familiar to LA’s contemporary scene (think the inaugural collection of LACMA’s Broad Contemporary Art museum in 2008), such as the “Balloon Dog” and “Michael Jackson And Bubbles,” both by Jeff Koons.
Presenting these pieces in the same fashion is exhausting to local museum-goers and questionable, considering The Broad boasts that they designed the building around their expansive art vault.
Overall, the exhibits make many nods to the art world, but the collection never quite delves deeply into the art world itself. Rather, The Broad houses a rudimentary collection of cacophonous pop art and is more of a nice Sunday afternoon date idea rather than a thought-provoking art experience.