Friday, May 6, 2016

LA's Museum The Broad = Modern Art Mother Lode


The phrase "mother lode" is a mining term tethered to the California gold rush.

Thanks to a family of progressive Los Angeles collectors, contemporary art lovers may now strike it rich with a visit to the state's newest museum, The Broad

Just reading about The Broad in 2014 and last year made me state aloud, "I wish Atlanta had its own art loving billionaire supercouple" like Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with "road").

The ATL has its share of billionaire couples, mind you, but sadly none of them have a passion for art on par with their love of fish and football. The "Mouth of the South" gives his money to U.N.-centric and other philanthropic projects, which leaves Anne Cox Chambers, John Wieland and a handful of others to try to keep the city's arts scene as close to world class as possible.

To their credit, these Atlanta arts patrons are indeed generous, but I don't think any of them are buying art the way the Broad family did.

A trip to The Broad yields room after room of fantastic contemporary and modern works by brand-name artists. My jaw dropped upon beholding the collection's massive Roy Lichtenstein canvas "Interior with African Mask" and, steps away, an entire room filled with other works spanning the artist's career. 

Need a dose of Andy Warhol? Then feast your eyes on another room full of his works.

And then there's the Jeff Koons sculptures -- remember those? You won't soon forget them once spotting the enormous "Balloon Dog (Blue)" and bokay of flowers titled "Tulips."

Damien Hirst? Check. Jean-Michel Basquiat? Check. Jasper Johns and Keith Haring? Check.

There's nobody in Atlanta who seems to be shopping for this stuff! Obviously, I wish they were.

New-to-my-eyes artist Mark Tansey made an impression with two large monochrome oil on canvas works titled "Achilles and the Tortoise" (a science versus nature statement) and "Forward Retreat."

A 1995 piece my Lari Pittman provided 25 minutes of study time. A case full of three-dimensional steel cutouts by Kara Walker was another fresh artist that left an impression.

Like the blood sought by vampires in "Only Lovers Left Alive," The Broad has the good stuff! They have so much good stuff, they built in a stairwell window enticing visitors to gaze into their cavernous on-site art storage room that teases of other greatness just waiting to dazzle in a future spotlight exhibition.

Hello! They did not just buy a Basquiat. They picked out several. And they are huge canvases, not the notebook leftovers

The only collector I've heard of who even comes close to the Broad family in terms of art acquisitions is Alice Walton, who continues to gather glorious works for Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Ark. (more on that collection here). 

The Broad not only presents fantastic contemporary art, but the building itself presents a masterpiece of light and shadow that can actually be seen from the street instead of from the sky like this design hidden from pedestrian view outdoors.

Just driving by or walking up to The Broad -- located in the block south of another head-turning building, the Walt Disney Symphony Hall -- gets visitors minds and hearts racing with an architectural proclamation that "this is going to be an intriguing museum."

Entering the museum from the street, guests are directed to a cavernous escalator that opens up to that Koons work "Tulips." 

I must admit to some agreement with the Washington Post's critical view of The Broad collection -- there are elements that are all over the place, or just not my cup of tea.

But for this writer, the pros far outweigh any cons of contemporary art purchases by Mr. and Mrs. Broad.

Love the room filled with edgy conversation starters by John Currin including "Anna" as well as "Old Couple" "Patch and Pearl" "Maenads" and "The Storm."
A few logistical notes for future visitors:

Tickets are (amazingly) FREE. With that said, tickets require advance reservations, with many dates and time ranges filled weeks in advance. I noticed a handful of walk-up visitors did seem to eventually get in after a patient wait, but planning ahead and playing it safe with a reservation is highly recommended to save time and consternation.

Parking is available beneath The Broad, but like other popular LA destinations, rates ain't cheap. The good news is that other museums and several places to dine are within walking distance, so one may make a day of their downtown visit and benefit from the daily versus hourly parking rate.

I highly recommend the newly reviewed on-site Otium Restaurant, which LA Times critic Jonathan Gold named the city's "most ambitious new restaurant in years."

If the Cultural Olympiad remains a component of the 2024 Olympic bid process, then the LA24 bid committee may benefit from collaboration with The Broad -- this writer can hardly wait for another opportunity to explore the collection on site.

For readers who made it this far in the post, a potential reward: Two VIP Passes to The Broad! With thanks to the museum public relations department for my ticket (and a pair of giveaway tickets) to the museum, I am giving away a free pair of General Admission "no line no waiting" VIP Passes to The Broad.

To win this pair of tickets, simply POST A COMMENT on this blog by Tuesday, May 31, 2016, at midnight Eastern Standard Time. I will put the names of comment providers into a hat and mail the passes to the person whose name is drawn. Thank you for reading about The Broad via Olympic Rings And Other Things!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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