Will the long-awaited debut of Eli Broad’s monument to all things modern art finally make DTLA Art Capital, USA?
The Broad museum arrives on Grand Avenue in the midst of the LA art world’s latest migration Downtown.
As multibillionaire Angelenos go, Eli Broad is one of the more formidable. The only child of Lithuanian immigrants, he grew up in the Bronx, suffered from dyslexia, and began his career as an accountant. He has imposed his economic will on the city often, most notably in the arenas of art and philanthropy. Doing so, he has clashed with board members, community leaders, and Frank Gehry. He goes after what he wants with the single-minded focus of Kobe Bryant going after championships.
But the opening of The Broad museum on September 20 is not just another event on the “to-do” list of some local luminary. It is the ordinary citizen’s equivalent of moving art work from the attic to a climate-controlled storage unit, except that the items in question represent the cumulative passion of years of collecting some of the most consequential contemporary creations of the past several decades.
“Eli has been saying for many, many years that downtown had the potential to be Los Angeles’ vibrant center.” —Joanne Heyler
“It’s not a culmination—we continue to collect voraciously—but it is a reflection of four decades of collecting by an individual family,” notes Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad and director and chief curator of The Broad Art Foundation, who has worked with Eli and his wife, Edythe, on the collection for almost all of her career. “When you’ve been involved with the art world and with artists—there are 200 artists in this collection—to the extent that the Broads have so consistently, what you wind up with in the best-case scenario is a portrait of an era. It’s not a portrait that claims to represent absolutely every important type of artworvck that’s been pursued in the last four decades by artists. But, rather, it [expresses] a very specific point of view.”
Heyler has been fielding inquiries about the museum for some time now: Homeland Security officers at the airport, passersby Downtown, and the 3,500 people who came to a one-day preview event in February have all wanted to know when it would finally open.
“I know people are very curious about this new building on the landscape of Los Angeles,” she says. “Two weeks ago I walked down the street to a meeting at the Downtown LA library, and I was stopped two times. ‘Hey, are you the director of The Broad? When is that opening again?’ It makes me feel like we’re on our way to achieving what the Broads have always wanted, which is the widest possible access by the public to the collection.”
Change of art: A rare look at the archives of The Broad.
Designed by the New York City-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, The Broad offers 120,000 square feet of space on three floors at a cost of $140 million. The idea is to not only offer gallery space for eager aficionados, but also to have the place serve as a highbrow lending library and archive. And the choice of location–on Grand Avenue, across from MOCA and just down from Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Eli Broad helped save when it was dying a slow financial death—was in keeping with Broad’s longstanding belief that Downtown is a happening place.
“Eli has been saying for many, many years—before it became self-evident and before it was fashionable to say this—that Downtown had the potential to be Los Angeles’ vibrant center,” Heyler says, “culturally, socially, and in terms of restaurants and people living in this part of LA.”
The Broad is only the latest in a continuing influx of arts-based interests to the Downtown area. Night Gallery, one such venue, warmly welcomes its new neighbor: “The opening of The Broad museum is further confirmation that Downtown Los Angeles has become an international art center,” notes Night director Rachel LaBine.
Renowned contemporary artist Edgar Arceneaux, a native Angeleno, is thrilled that admission to The Broad will be free, and as a board member of local interdisciplinary arts center REDCAT he is looking forward to sharing the spirit and vibe. “The trend of these large private collectors to create big institutions is something I’m eager to see,” he says, “because of the ripple effect it will have on the artists’ community.”
Naturally the Broads visited the museum many times during its construction. But Heyler recalls one particular recent visit when she and Eli Broad were able to reflect on just what it all meant. “He and I sat across from each other, and he said, ‘We actually did it. It was a long road—five years—but it’s done, and it’s terrific.’” 221 S. Grand Ave., 213-232-6220