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The Broad opens, displaying 2,000-piece art collection

LOS ANGELES — The Broad contemporary art museum opened its doors Sept. 20 to a curious public eager to get a peek at the new $140 million home of the 2,000-piece art collection built over several decades by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and wife, Edye.

With more than 105,000 advance tickets already booked through to the end of the year, large crowds are expected to continue flowing in over the coming months, museum officials said.

The Broad’s inaugural exhibit features works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Takashi Murakami — all part of a collection that the Broads have been loaning out to other venues around the world for the past 30 years.

Also on display is one of the Broads’ latest acquisitions, Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room — the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.” The piece, made up of multi-colored LED lights reflected by mirrors inside a 200-square-foot room, can only be viewed one person at a time.

In addition to the art, the museum’s architecture will likely be a highlight for patrons. The design, by the firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, features a white latticed exterior wrapped around a cool subterranean-like interior.

Architect Elizabeth Diller, the principal at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, said the “porous and matte” feel of The Broad creates a “relationship of contrasts” with the “smooth and shiny” attributes of its neighbor, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The three-story building includes 50,000 square feet of gallery space and a 21,000-square-foot “vault” — seemingly suspended at the center of the structure — that houses all 2,000 or so pieces of The Broad’s collection, with the exception of a life-sized fire truck.

The gallery interior of The Broad, the new contemporary art museum that opened to the public in downtown Los Angeles Sept. 20. A dedication ceremony was held Sept. 18. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
The gallery interior of The Broad, the new contemporary art museum that opened to the public in downtown Los Angeles Sept. 20. A dedication ceremony was held Sept. 18. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)

Curator and founding director Joanne Heyler said she took a “straightforward, wide-lens chronological approach” to showing off the Broads’ art collection in the inaugural show.

She said the museum provides an opportunity to offer a comprehensive look at a collection that has only “been seen in fragments over the years.”

The collection includes a “deep concentration” of pop art from the 1950s and ’60s, providing “a truly unique opportunity to experience these rare master works free,” she said.

Broad said the art collection stored and shown at the museum was built over nearly 50 years and fueled by an interest in art acquisition that became “not only a passion, but also an addiction.”

It was particularly important for the museum to bring more recent art to a wider audience, Broad said.

“Contemporary art is the art of our time,” he said. “It reflects an important social, political and cultural commentary on the world in which we live.”

To illustrate this point, Broad cited familiar Warhol pieces depicting pop culture icons like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, and Barbara Kruger’s feminist statement piece “Your Body is a Battleground” that served as “a symbol of the 1980s women’s march on Washington.”

Also on display is a charcoal drawing by Robert Longo showing a hazy scene of riot police in Ferguson, Missouri, providing commentary that is especially relevant in the present day, Broad said.

Members of the United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents LAUSD teachers, were joined by parents and students picketing outside the museum on its opening day.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said the group took issue with a reported plan by Broad to put “between half a billion and a billion dollars into a plan to draw 50 percent of LAUSD students into unregulated, non-union charter schools.”

Caputo-Pearl said the group was “not protesting the opening of The Broad Museum,” which he said is a “nice contribution to the arts and culture of Los Angeles,” but the charter school plans revealed in recent media reports are cause for concern.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, as well as The Keck Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, are among groups that are looking to fund an expansion of LAUSD’s publicly funded charter system, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But Caputo-Pearl said such schools, which could be similar to charter schools the Broad Foundation has already funded in New Orleans, “don’t play by the same rules” and are prone to “cherry-picking” their students and failing to set up a public process for teachers to interact with parents.

Such charter schools also are not transparently managed by a public entity, he said.

Two days before the formal opening, Gov. Jerry Brown, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other dignitaries gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Broad said the addition to Grand Avenue — also home to arts institutions like the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art — is his way of expressing gratitude to a city that “over the last 50 years has been very good to us.”

“Where other cities are insular and exclusive, Los Angeles embraces people from all walks of life. L.A. is truly a meritocracy, and we want to give back,” said the 82-year-old real estate magnate, whose worth is estimated at more than $7 billion.

“So this museum’s collection is our gift to Los Angeles,” he said. “We hope you enjoy it!”

Garcetti said The Broad is a piece of what makes Los Angeles “the contemporary art capital of the world, at this moment.”

“It doesn’t happen automatically, it happens because people have vision,” he said. “Edye, who became an art collector, taught Eli a thing or two, and suddenly he became an expert as well.”

The mayor said The Broad will be accessible to everyday Angelenos, thanks to its free admission and a subway station behind the museum.

The Broad, at 221 S. Grand Ave., will be open from11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Doors open at 10 a.m. on weekends, closing at 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 6 p.m. on Sundays. The museum will be closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.