The Broad museum on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles Photo by Benny Chan, courtesy of The Broad and DIller Scofidio + Renfro
The new Broad Museum, a sponge-like box articulated by more than 2,500 concrete modules and located in downtown Los Angeles, is the kind of building that demands your attention. Designed by New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the $140-million building houses the personal art collection of local philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, with some 2,000 works primarily from the postwar era. The Broad is striving to “foster public appreciation of contemporary art by increasing access for audiences worldwide.” Therefore the museum’s admission is free, with tickets near-booked through December.
The Broad on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Exterior Skin Photo: Grace Lennon
With the building acting as both a secure warehouse for the Broad’s collection and a public gallery, the architect’s overall design concept is a “vault and veil” system, in which a three-story box (the vault) with 21,000 square feet of storage capped by a 35,000-square-foot gallery is blanketed by a structurally independent sun shade (the veil). That veil, composed of modules of glass-reinforced concrete formed from 380 different molds, controls light entering the building and is animated on its front facade by a single, puddle-like glazed indentation, a Cyclopean eye that marks a small theater on the second floor.
The Broad museum’s 105-foot escalator leading from the lobby to the third-floor galleries Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
8-foot-tall Stack of White Fiberglass Dishes by Robert Therrien. Photo: Grace Lennon
Urs Fischer’s Streetlight Sculpture Photo: Grace Lennon
While rigidly orthogonal on its exterior, the museum opens up on its ground floor into an interior of organic, cave-like forms. Visitors are immediately met with a single melting lamp-post (which seems to be a fun tease on the iconic “Urban Lights” at LACMA), an 8-foot-tall stack of white fiberglass plates, and three-story escalator penetrating through the undulating path of concrete and plaster.
Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013, © Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y
Located just past the escalator is the Broad’s most popular exhibit (and most “instagramable”): Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.” It is a room of infinity mirrors, as the title says, on all of the walls, floor and ceiling filled with thousands of small LED lights, creating for the viewer the effect of floating through millions of stars in space. Only one visitor is allowed in the chamber at a time and is given 45 seconds to experience the magic. It requires a separate free ticket for a specific time, reserved at the kiosk on the first floor. Therefore, it is recommended that you put your name on the list as soon as you enter.
Installation of works by Christopher Wool and Jeff Koons in The Broad’s third-floor galleries.
The collection of works at the Broad are displayed chronologically, beginning on the third floor. Visitors take the tube-like escalator (or glass-enclosed elevator) up to a magnificent open gallery: an acre-size room unencumbered by columns by columns. Among the first things one sees is Jeff Koons’ brilliantly colorful “Tulips” sculpture, veiled by incredible skylights that match the exterior facade and allow for diffused daylight.
Installation of works by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha in The Broad's third-floor galleries. Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Around the corner are many of the most influential pop-art works of the 1960s, including Warhol's famous "Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)" and other prominent pieces by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
From there, it's a trip through the pop, abstract and contemporary art worlds of the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s, with paintings, sculptures, photographs and other works by the likes of Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Charles Ray and others.
Installation of three works by Roy Lichtenstein in The Broad's third-floor galleries. Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Installation of Robert Therrien’s “Under the Table,” 1994 in The Broad’s third-floor galleries. Photo: Elizabeth Daniels, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Among the many highlights are Keith Haring’s heralded "Untitled" painting and Koons' stunning porcelain sculpture of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles.
Keith Haring’s “Untitled” Photo: Grace Lennon
Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio,L.A.
As you head down the stairs to the first-level galleries, just past the elevator on the second level, a patch of glass offers a peek into the museum’s storage area, “the vault.” In an era when museum design can rival the importance of the collection itself, the ability to view the vault is a very unique feature that helps set the Broad apart from other museums.
Visitors at The Broad's collection storage viewing windows; Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
On the first floor are more recent works, including Takashi Murakami's colorful yet sobering 82-foot mural "In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow." The painting, inspired by Japan's deadly 2011 earthquake and tsunami, covers most of two walls.
Takashi Murakami’s “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow.” Photo: Grace Lennon
Near the entry of the first-floor galleries, in a darkened gallery, is Ragnar Kjartansson's whimsical performance-art piece "The Visitors." (by far my favorite at the museum). This mesmerizing piece consists of nine video screens showing various musicians in different rooms of the same house, all performing the same song, but in their separate spaces. The entire sequence is shot in a single 64-minute take, using nine cameras (one per musician.) As you wander from screen to screen, you experience that musician’s part of the ensemble while still in earshot of the others. Among the performers is the Icelandic artist Kjartansson himself, who sits naked in a bathtub, strumming his guitar.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s“The Visitors.” Photo: Grace Lennon
A fresh addition to the downtown’s art scene and skyline, The Broad museum stands to remake Los Angeles into the nation’s contemporary art capital. The free tickets can be reserved on the museum’s website. If the selected date is sold out, visitors are welcome to wait in standby for availability. The Broad is open six days a week, Tuesdays through Sundays.
For more information, visit thebroad.org