The Broad Museum

Broad Museum, Los Angeles, CA

It's been a year and a half since The Broad Museum opened in the heart of Los Angeles.  Located right next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall on the Grand Avenue Corridor, The Broad is part of Downtown LA's rebirth from a once-lifeless city center to a new focus of art, culture, and development.  The Museum of Contemporary Art is located diagonally across the street, while the Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum, and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stand a stone's throw away.  Further up the street, Grand Park forms a green social space in the middle of urban Los Angeles.  And all around, new mixed use developments have been sprouting up to bring residential towers and retail establishments the city's birthplace.

Lets take a look at this stylish and fantastic cultural institute!

The Architecture

The headquarter for over 2000 pieces of art from the personal collection of billionaire Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, this stunning contemporary art museum stands prominently on Grand Avenue within an eye-catching building shrouded in fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels forming a "veil" around and over the entire structure.  Designed by world-famous architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the building skin features over 2500 panels required 650 tons of steel.  Creating a porous, geometric pattern that filters light into the museum interior, this facade has become an instant photogenic classic.  It's a bold and assertive gesture that is simultaneously elegant and refined.  The entire "veil" structure seems to gently lift over the central building mass, nicknamed the "vault."  An oculus facing the main street opens up at the second floor level.  Along the edges, the "veil" tapers up toward the corners, as though enticingly unveiling a glimpse of the vault itself, beckoning visitors in.

The lovely and dazzling exterior of The Broad was an instant architectural icon when it opened.

The Interior

The inside of the museum is no less spectacular, and in a similarly organic way.  Guests will immediately notice the cavernous, smooth, free flowing interior, which is completely devoid of columns.  Smooth Venetian plaster has been used to form sinuous curving ceilings and sweeping walls around the galleries.

The interior lobby is devoid of angles.  Everything is smooth and flowing.

Guests may choose to explore the ground floor galleries--which house rotating exhibits--or proceed directly to the third floor permanent gallery.  Passing by an untitled work by Robert Therrien comprising an oversized stack of plates, guests can choose to take the prominent escalator upstairs or the less visible but very sleek and futuristic glass elevator up to the third floor.  The escalator plunges visitors up through an organic looking tunnel.  The elevator seems to set one into the confines of a dystopian science fiction movie.  Both bring people to a lovely, natural light flooded third floor where the museum's most notable art pieces are viewed.

Upon reaching this top floor, guests will immediately notice how the "veil" actually folds up and over the building, forming a twisting coffered ceiling and roof with skylights that diffuse light into the space below.  Natural light is, of course, damaging to art pieces, so museums take painstaking measures to control the amount of light that comes through.  Fortunately, DS+R's masterful facade provides indirect light all across the gallery floor, and unless it's a dark stormy day, artificial lights are pretty much not required during daytime hours.

The glass escalator and stair meet at the third floor.

The 105 foot long escalator also provides a surreal processional experience up to the permanent galleries.

Permanent Galleries

There is plenty of explore in the permanent galleries, where works by great modern artists such as Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Therrien, and more are displayed.  There is plenty of room to wander and take in the art.  Because The Broad uses a timed ticketing entry, the museum can control the amount of people who come in, mitigating elbow-to-elbow circumstances.  All around, paintings, sculptures, and lighting displays provide interesting looks for art enthusiasts to purvey (and also the backdrops of many a Facebook profile photo).  The collection is constantly growing, with on average one new art piece from the collections added every week.  it's enough to last someone an hour or two if (s)he takes time take in each piece.

Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog (Blue) is featured here.  Guests may recognize it from its time at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Likewise, Koons' famous Tulips piece is the first art sculpture scene by guests exiting the escalator.

Robert Therrien's Under the Table shrinks guests into a fun perspective.

Collection Installation: Creature

Besides the entry lobby and gift shop, the ground floor is home to the changing exhibits that last several months or half a year at The Broad.  A couple of weeks ago when I visited, the exhibition was Creature, a series of art pieces centered around representations of the self.  There were definitely plenty of fascinating art pieces to behold.  Some appeared morbid, while others were thought provoking.  And still others were visually stimulating and dynamic.  Those who may be motivated to visit this installation should hurry--it runs until March 19. 

Unlike the third floor, the ground floor galleries are artificially lit and do not offer much daylighting.  In that regard, they feel more like traditional museum spaces, though the high volumes and expansive rooms certainly alleviate any potential feelings of stuffiness. 

Thomas Houseago's Giant Figure (Cyclops) is one of the pieces on display in the current collection installation.

Tony Oursler's Dust is a video projected audio-visual experience. 

There is plenty of room for large art pieces at The Broad!

Infinity Mirrored Room

Also housed on the ground floor and probably the crown jewel of the museum exhibits at the current moment is Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room--The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.  This is technically a temporary installation, though it has been in place since the museum's September 2015 opening.  It is included as part of free admission but requires an on-site reservation.  Guests who enter the museum can go to one of two iPad stations in the middle of the lobby floor and sign up for a slot. 

On a regular Saturday visit, my 11:00am entry and registration netted me a nearly four hour forecasted wait time.  Fortunately, it ended up being closer to three, and guests can leave the museum (maybe grab lunch at nearby Grand Central Market) and return later and still check out the infinity room, so long as their number has not passed.  And although the room only allows one person in at a time for less than one minute, it is an ethereal, contemplative, and majestic experience.  The lights and mirrors create an immaculate interstellar effect--one that certainly imbues serenity.  My only complaint was that the experience was so short, but given the extremely high demand even now, the limits make sense.

Kusama's installation is currently slated to run through October 2017.

Standing inside the Infinity Mirrored Room.

This approximately 13'-6" x 13'-6" feels much larger, given all the reflections, lights, and expansive illusion.

The LED's go through a programmed pattern sequence, flickering and strobing, in the limited 45-second run time.

It may be a long wait, but it's certainly a great experience.

The Broad features free admission, but advance reservations are highly recommended.  Tickets for the following month are typically released on the first of the month.  Prospective visitors can go to The Broad's web site and reserve up to (4) slots for a specific time.  Alternatively, those aiming for a more spontaneous trip can engage the standby line, though anyone who arrives after opening is likely in for a significantly long wait, especially on the weekends (weekdays are probably much easier).

The Broad has been a smash success in the 18 months that it's been open, and it's great to see Los Angeles gain another addition to its cultural amenities.  Having a rich art scene is a sign of a truly international and cosmopolitan city.  Most people don't necessarily view L.A. as on par with the arts scene of New York or Paris or London, but there is a surprisingly large number of museums around town (just spread out).  Attractions like The Broad are a wonderful contribution to increasing social and artistic diversity.

THE BROAD MUSEUM AT A GLANCE

  • Name: The Broad
  • Address: 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • Web Site: http://www.thebroad.org/
  • Admission: FREE (online reservations required), special exhibits may charge
  • Hours: 11:00am - 5:00pm Tuesdays & Wednesdays, 11:00am - 8:00pm Thursdays & Fridays, 10:00am - 8:00pm Saturdays, 10:00am - 6:00pm Sundays, closed Mondays
  • Metro Stop(s): Civic Center/Grand Park Station (serves Red Line & Purple Line)
 

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.