Many famous art collectors developed museums as monuments collection — Henry Clay Frick, Isabella Stewart Gardner and two key Los Angeles ones: J. Paul Getty and Norton Simon. Now, welcome L.A.’s new star – The Broad, a contemporary art museum built to preserve and display the masterpieces of the last 50 years collected by Eli and Edythe (Edy) Broad (pronounced like Road with a B), which opens to the public today.
The ambitious museum and amazing private collection features works from arguably every major artist from the last six decades. Eli Broad acknowledged that “collecting has become a passion and almost an addiction.” They have amassed a trove of more than 2,000 works, estimated to be worth well over $2 billion, of which less than 10 percent can be displayed in the new facility at any time. Who needs traveling special exhibits when the storeroom can yield new ones for years to come?
Eli Broad initially made money in real estate, borrowing money from his in-laws to establish Kaufman & Broad in 1957. KB Homes has since become one of the largest home building companies worldwide. In 1971, Broad tried his hand at a new industry and purchased a small insurance company that he later sold to AIG for $16.5 billion. Today, Broad is reportedly America’s 65th richest person, worth over $17 billion, according to Forbes.
The Broads have given away almost $4 billion to support education, science and the arts. This includes about $1 billion to LA arts and cultural organizations, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, UCLA’s Broad Art Center, Santa Monica College’s performing arts center, at and the Los Angeles Opera. The couple’s latest gift to the city is their new museum, which is free of charge, and access to their tremendous assemblage of art.
The Couple’s Collection
With so much art in their grasp, it was undoubtedly daunting to select which ones to show first. For the inaugural exhibition, founding director and chief curator Joanne Heyler has selected more than 200 works by some 60 artists to present a representative, chronological journey through the Broad’s collection.
The museum’s installation starts with a journey from the 1950s through the 1990s in the main galleries on the skylighted third floor. On display are rooms filled with masterpieces of the artists that have defined the modern era like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Cy Twombly. It continues with concentrated installations of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman, and then moves into works by Andreas Gursky, Glenn Ligon and Julie Mehretu, among others.
Many of the artists have several pieces on display representing the breadth of their career and/or galleries of their own. Warhol is the first with 11 works, before entering a room of Johns’ work. Roy Lichtenstein, a Broad favorite, has a larger area with 10 of the couple’s 34 pieces currently on display. Another room features four Ellsworth Kelly paintings with their saturated colors and bold shapes. The journey continues with individual rooms featured Twombly, Basquiat and other artists.
Downstairs, the collection represents the present times, including five paintings and sculptures by Takashi Murakami. His normal cartoon cheerfulness contrasts sharply with a monumental 82-foot-long mural – In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow – about the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear power plant and everything around it. The mural features the horror and waves crashing into people in what the Los Angeles Times called “a landscape of elegant, stylishly sophisticated awfulness.”
The museum also has several works that show social and political content. “Contemporary art is the art of our time. It reflects our time,” Broad commented. The collection includes pieces on the women’s movement, gay rights, the police riot in Ferguson, and more political statements by artists including Barbara Kruger, Lari Pittman, Anselm Kiefer, Cady Noland, Marlene Dumas and Mike Kelley.
“As vast as the inaugural installation is, very few galleries show the full depth of our holdings in the work of any given artist,” Heyler said. “This presentation gives the public just a hint at the totality of the collection—and a reason to come back many times to see fresh rotations, new acquisitions and in-depth special exhibitions.”
The Broad is located in the heart of downtown L.A. There is no charge to see the vast collection of contemporary art. However, due to overwhelming demand to visit the new star in the area, time-entry tickets are advised and should be booked in advance. For those not able to visit directly, the Broad has a mobile app featuring various tours highlighting the collection and the architecture, including one for children.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Preview visit to the Broad Sep. 16, 2015
Los Angeles Times: An early look in the Broad museum reveals a show that doesn’t quite gel
New York Times: The Broad Is an Old-Fashioned Museum for a New Gilded Age
Smithsonian: The Big Names of Art (and a Bit of the Unexpected) Debut at the Broad Museum in L.A
Photos showing section of Murakami’s In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow and Dumas’ Weeping Wall by Dyanne Weiss