Greetings once again, to the digital world! I have been away for a few weeks, but today I have a blog for you on my trip to the brand spankin’ new modern art museum in downtown LA, The Broad. The Broad’s collection was built by Eli an Edyth Broad who have been collecting postwar and contemporary art for fifty years, and are currently still making around one new acquisition a week (I would LOVE to see their acquisitions budget, holy cow!). So this is a private collection. I am fairly neural on this issue, but some museum people have a strong opinion about art and antiquities being in private hands. Until their museum opened up about six months ago, they mainly loaned their pieces out to other institutions, for what I would assume would be a sizeable sum… or lets just say probably more that typical shipping, handling, and assembly! I first noticed The Broad when I saw a job listing for a head curator for the museum about six to eight weeks before it opened, which I thought was interesting- a museum that was set to open, and they obviously had to have been already planning their installation, but there was no head curator. Having said that, you would not have known that after visiting this delightful new establishment.
The Broad opened this past summer, and offers (wait for it) FREE admission. That is right folks, a museum in Los Angeles that is FREE. The only other museums I know that are free are the Getty Center and Getty Villa, both of which do have a $20 parking fee. Granted you will have to pay for parking in LA to visit The Broad, my partner and I were able to park in a lot adjacent to the building for $9. Admission may be free, but if you want to go to The Broad, you will have to reserve your tickets online. I reserved mine for the second week in April back in February. One could wait longer to book, but I found that weekends book up quickly. If you are perhaps retired or a student with time off during the week, you could probably easily book a weekday morning time slot 3-4 weeks in advance. There is also standby entry, which I do not recommend on the weekends, as when we drove past the line was down the street and around the building. But hey, at least it is an option.
In the new digital age, people want their information in clear and concise small bites, which I feel The Broad has done an excellent job of doing. Their web site, in my opinion, is wonderful. It is simple to navigate, and provides not too much but just enough information. You can check out their web site by clicking here. The Broad also has an app that can be used to look up information on your smart phone, and can also be used in the museum for audio tours and guides. I downloaded the app, but as I am not fond of tours or audio guides (I personally find them distracting) I did not use it. If you want to check out the app, the link to the iTunes store can be found by clicking here. I live tweeted from the museum that I was there and had a great experience, and The Broad liked my tweet the same day when I was at lunch after my visit. I checked out their hashtag and page, and they l had liked and retweeted most of the appropriate and overall positive posts that they had been mentioned in. They also have a Snapchat, a growing trend in the museum world. Their social media team must be on top of their stuff! I love seeing a museum that is taking an active role in shaping and participating in their own digital footprint. Bravo. If you want to check out their Twitter page, please click here.
When I was waiting to cross the street, I was immediately struck by the fact that the building itself is a piece of modern art. My partner and I quickly found the 1:00pm line for tickets, and waited to be let in. A gallery assistant came out a few minutes before hand and made a brief announcement asking that we silence our phones, but photography with no flash is allowed EVERYWHERE (you know I got excited here). Wi-Fi is available throughout all the galleries. Also, those who have backpacks must wear them on the front, no food or
beverages are allowed, to check out the app for audio guides, and to ask a gallery assistant for any help. The staff were friendly, but not over the top. But most of all, they were not nasty. I did not at one point feel that I was being stalked for suspicious behavior, I was not scolded, and I felt that I could have fun and joke around without being negatively judged. I did not have any interactions with the staff, but I saw others having conversations, and laughing, and being a positive aspect of visitor experiences. It was refreshing. I felt like the people working there, actually wanted to be there. Again, bravo. Because there was Wi-Fi, people where taking Selfies with the art and live Tweeting everywhere! A few times I was a bit annoyed that people seemed to be spending more time looking at the art through the reverse cameras on their iPhones and bumping into people, but again, the visitors were having positive experiences, and making memories. Plus, this is the best kind of free advertising that a museum could possibly hope to get!
If you have read my blog before, you will know that my background is in archaeology, not art history. During my masters I had a bit of a crash course into modern art, but I am no expert. Museums, when acquiring art, usually choose to specialize in certain periods or artists so that they can establish themselves within the art and museum community as that period, style, or artist being their ‘in house’ expertise so to speak. The Broad, in their ‘Inaugural Installation’, has chosen to display the wide breadth of their collections. To me, it seemed like this worked to their advantage, allowing themselves to appeal to a broader
base of art museum enthusiasts- there was something for everyone. On average, if you go to an art museum that has installations with 10-15 pieces from 5 different artists, unless you specifically like one of those artists, you have a pretty good chance of walking out having not seen anything you felt to be personally striking. I myself believe that everyone will have different aesthetics and tastes when it comes to art, because it is personal. The Broad will have something for everyone, I can guarantee this. I did notice on their site that they are planning to close the ground floor for a month to put in an installation by one artist, but leave the third floor galleries (the second floor is their office and meeting space) with the current mixed galleries. It will be interesting to see what direction they decide to go in, if they keep a varied approach or decide to narrow down their displays to focus on certain aesthetics or artists from modern art.
The inside of the museum, like the outside, is a work of functional art. I am used to museums in the UK, which are often housed in heritage buildings that have limitations on the extent of remodeling they are allowed to undertake. The ability to build your museum
from scratch, like what The Broad has been able to do, would allow you to carefully and painstakingly plan every aspect of construction to work towards the benefit of the display. The Broad was built by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, and dubbed “the veil and the vault” due to its design that focuses on the buildings two main purposes: to display, and to store.
The lighting on the third or top floor, which I still cannot get over, was absolutely flawless (#LightingOnFleek). The skylights, which according to the pamphlet available at the entry way, number 318 and allow in ‘diffused northern light’. This natural light is couples with LED spotlights, making for the perfect combination of artificial and natural light. The inside outer wall of the museum is glass, allowing you to see from underneath the concrete ‘veil’ on the outside of the building. Again, it allowed in the perfect amount of light, and kept the moving sun from blinding visitors as they look out the window. For conservation purposes, this diffused light also protects the art from UV damage.
Branching out from the lighting, there were so many interesting and unique details that were built into the architecture of this museum, you would have to visit to see them all. There are two more that I would like to briefly mention here that I found particularly different. The concrete shaped ceiling in the ground floor entry way is very modern and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In addition, when you exit the upper third floor through the downwards stair case, you pass by two windows that peek into their storage rooms, allowing you to see the ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. I have not seen this before, and it is a great idea. People are curious, and want to see more. I know what art storage looks like, but most people do not. The Broad is literally being transparent.
As I have previously mentioned, my knowledge of modern art is elementary at best. I did however take a few snapshots of my favorite pieces with can be seen in my photo gallery post by clicking here. I found that on display were multiple pieces that I liked, found interesting, found funny, and even found upsetting. BUT, I think that is good!
My partner is an American history buff, and he enjoyed an installation by Kara Walker that consisted of three pieces centered around the ‘horror of slavery’. I liked the physicality of this installation, that consisted of three pieces: a wall decal, a cut out scene, and a painting/mural. The wall decal was placed on the inside of a curved wall, that allowed visitors to stand inside and have to physically turn to see the timeline scene progression. The cut out allowed one to look in, and the mural forced the head to turn upwards. Many of the installations like this one were physically engaging. This was an aspect that I had thought of after my visit, that perhaps there was not anything tactile, or physical. After dwelling on this, I realized it was not true. I had to walk, stoop, stand on my toes, turn my head, spin around, and physically reposition myself multiple times in order to view the displays. I was very physically engaged with the art, more so than I ever have been in an art museum before.
A few months ago I read an article about museum fatigue, which I find that because I obsessively read labels and backtrack to ensure that I do not miss anything, I fall plague to often. After finishing at The Broad, I did not feel physically or mentally fatigued. I was there for about an hour and a half, and my visit was taken at a leisurely pace. Thinking back, I did not see very many benches in the galleries, but due to the crowds I think they would obstruct the flow. I also just do not think they are necessary. The only display I did not see was the Infinity Mirror room by Yayio Kusama, as visitors have to be there in the early morning to sign up for it. If you type the name into Google though, you can see many photos people have taken inside the room.
I did also investigate the shop downstairs. They have a wide breadth of coffee table books for many of the artists whose works they have on display… of course for virtually everyone
except the artist that I fell in love with, Julie Mehretu, whose work ‘Cairo’ was on display upstairs. They had a very large impressive book that covers their collection of over 2,000 pieces for around $90, which is not a bad price for such a large and weighty glossy paged book. Most of their other books for specific artists are in the $40 to $60 range.
I know that there is more that I want to mention, but I have already gone on long enough here. If you are in the LA area, or are planning to visit and you are a museum lover, please plan ahead and visit The Broad. It is a cool, fun, on fleek place that has established a strong foothold in LA’s trendy culture. But at the same time, I would say that I saw people from all walks of life at The Broad. I will be planning another visit soon, and will be taking my DSLR for some higher quality photos! Thanks for reading.
Peace and long life.