Eli and Edythe Broad have been involved in the Los Angeles art community since they arrived in Southern California in 1963. Eli Broad is the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) and served in that position from 1979 to 1984.
He also is the only person to have built two Fortune 500 companies in different industries — homebuilding and insurance.
In August 2010, the Broads announced plans to finance their own contemporary art museum, located on Grand Avenue, across the street from MoCA and one block away from the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. They wanted access to their museum to be free, “so that affordability isn’t a criterion to see the art,” said Eli Broad. “Edye and I have been deeply moved by contemporary art and believe it inspires creativity and provokes lively conversations.”
What began as one couple’s small collection of postwar and contemporary art is now a treasure trove of more than 2,000 pieces, housed in an architectural wonder in downtown Los Angeles.
The museum exterior is a work of art in, and of, itself. The façade of the building dubbed “The Veil and The Vault” by architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, features a porous, honeycomb-like exterior known as the “veil.” The “vault” is the concrete body of the building that houses the artwork.
The firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro is known for designing Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and renovating New York City’s Lincoln Center.
While some museums are dimly lit or bathed in artificial light, the high-ceilinged Broad lets sunlight come in from all sides, creating a clean, crisp ambience. When it opened in September 2015, the Broad was so popular the museum now requires a timed and dated free admission ticket for entry.
Tickets must be ordered in advance online at The Broad’s website. If the timed tickets “sell” out on the day you want to go, you can still wait in the standby line. That typically takes at least 30 minutes during the week and an hour or more on weekends.
Note that there are some special event exhibits that require guests to purchase a ticket, which also includes general admission to the main museum.
Tickets are currently on sale, through June for “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” The exhibit shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists made over two decades, 1963-83, at the height of the civil rights movement.
The following are some “must-see” works at The Broad. But, first take the escalator upstairs to the third floor, so that you can navigate the museum in chronological order.
Begin with the major artists who came to prominence in the 1950s, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. Then, move into the 1960s and the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol followed by the 1980s and ’90s with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
You’ll see many works of modern art that you’ve seen in magazines and in popular culture.
Two of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms are currently on view at The Broad. Each room can be seen at no additional charge. However, note that a separate reservation is required for “Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013).” The Infinity Mirror rooms cannot be described, only experienced. It is art of the highest, most visceral magnitude.
Robert Therrien’s untitled piece (1993) greets you at the entrance of the museum and it’s impossible to miss. It’s a stack of larger-than-life plates.
Takashi Murakami’s “In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow.” This is a massive 82-foot-long painting that reflects on the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
Mark Tansey’s “Forward Retreat.” Tansey’s 1986 work describes the slipperiness of perception and questions the validity of innovation in art. The central image of horseback riders is painted as a reflection on water. The riders, all outfitted in uniforms of Western powers — American, French, German and British — represent the nationalities of artists who came to dominate 20th-century art history. They are seated backward on their horses, focused on a distant receding horizon, and are oblivious to the fact that their steeds trample on the crushed ruins of myriad pottery and objets d’art.
Robert Therrien’s “Under the Table.” Therrien’s investigations of form, perception and subjectivity often isolate recognizable elements and objects from everyday life, as in this massive 1994 work.
Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Dog.” Koons is known for working with popular culture subjects and his reproductions of banal objects, such as balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-finish surfaces.
Andy Warhol’s “Two Marilyns.” A few weeks following the death of Marilyn Monroe in August 1962, Warhol began silk-screening Monroe’s face onto canvases. Although he only learned to silkscreen a few months earlier, Warhol used a portrait of the famed celebrity to create the multi-colored, fading piece. The “Two Marilyns” currently housed at The Broad is the 27th version that Warhol completed.
Roy Lichtenstein’s “Non-Objective I.” During the 1960s, along with Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and James Rosenquist among others, Lichtenstein became a leading figure in the new art movement. His work defined the premise of pop art through parody.
Jasper Johns’ “Watchman.” This work was made while Jasper Johns was living abroad in Tokyo. The seminal work features a wax cast of his friend’s leg, two canvas panels and half of a standard dining table chair.
The Broad is located at 221 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles. It is open Tuesday-Wednesday 11 a.m. tp 5 p.m., Thursday-Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.