A matter of scale
I finally dusted off my Nor Cal boots and found it in me to take them South. Los Angeles to me seems like a mythological place. It's a place of beauty and chaos, littered freeways and glamorous cocktail bars. It's where people go to "make it big" or people try to leave because it's just "too big." It's a wonderful paradox.
To consider the stars, the history, the creativity; it’s very overwhelming. However one of the destinations at the very top of my list was to visit The Broad, (Pronounced bro-ed). It's a very new addition to the Downtown LA arsenal as it was established in 2015. It sits across the street from MOCA and directly next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, so there’s a lot to take in.
The exterior is beautiful with a honeycomb look constructed at an asymmetrical angle so that it almost seems to be jutting straight into the earth. Like the contents, it looks very contemporary so it fulfills it’s purpose.
As an art history major (nerd) I was looking forward to the expanse of the collection. With over 2,000 pieces I knew there were exciting historic works to be seen. Of course, Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit had just been closed and it was under construction for Jasper Johns, but exhibit or not, the collection was vast and impressive.
The challenge for me with a contemporary-exclusive museum is that it doesn’t always allow for a full-bodied experience, however The Broad did manage to feature some artists who are still “emerging” in the art world.
Overall though it was awash with the biggest names; Haring, Koons, Basquiat, Warhol, Murakami etc. From an art history standpoint, it hits the mark, but from an outsider it can seem rather spectacle-based. A big part of art museums is adding meaning and purpose and The Broad’s purpose is simply contemporary art.
That being said, I think it’s valuable for everyone to visit, and I would especially recommend the listening tour as it will explain the “why” behind Christopher Wool’s giant letters, and Rucha’s typography and alluring landscape scenes. Abandon the urge to consider “I could have done that.” Truth be told, much of this collection is work that no one has ever done or attempted. It has a deeper meaning and given the time to listen to the purpose, it’s quick to see how important these artists still are.
One artist I was especially excited to see was John Baldessari. In school I focused my senior paper on “text in art” and the challenge of this very statement. When do painted letters go from providing a message to a work of art? With this thesis, contemporary art was arguably the fountainhead. Baldessari explored this conundrum in his pieces, “Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell” and “The Spectator is Compelled.” As I focused on these works in my research, it was wonderful to see them in-person. It made all the work seem that much more worthwhile.
I really enjoyed the exhibit “African’t” by Kara Walker. Walker was a new artist for me, but I was captivated by her work. From a distance, it has a Disney-like Peter Pan silhouette charm, but with a closer look this quickly goes bad. It shows clearly the horrors of white slave owners in the antebellum South but in a more charismatic and shocking way. It’s powerful and creative as it showcases a dark and very real subject in a unique way.
I’m very grateful for The Broad and people like Eli and Edythe Broad who are making art more accessible and appreciated. The Broad is FREE to visit. Yes, some exhibitions do cost extra, but considering the collection, this is an incredible effort and opportunity to share and educate. If you’re every in the area or planning to be, make The Broad a stop and take in all that you can.