Eli and Edythe Broad. Photo via broadfoundation.org
Eli and Edythe Broad. Photo via broadfoundation.org

Gov. Jerry Brown, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other dignitaries gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday ahead of this weekend’s opening of The Broad, the contemporary art museum built to house the 2,000-piece collection acquired over decades by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife, Edye.

The Bronx-born 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!”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis joined the many dignitaries who expressed gratitude, telling him “Thank you for having such a great corazon!”

Solis said her childhood impression of downtown Los Angeles — where her family often shopped — was that of a place that was “free and open.”

She said she hopes that spirit will continue, saying that nearby “we have a wonderful Grand Park” and “we’ll have a continuation of more, hopefully good economic projects” that motivate residents of the county “to come out and understand that this is their’s.”

Several dignitaries credited Broad with the growth of Grand Avenue as an arts and culture destination, with Broad himself pointing to his new museum as the latest in a collection of existing architectural landmarks that have risen in the area, many of which he was instrumental in getting built.

Broad donated $1 million to the construction of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which was designed by renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and served as founding chairman. He also spearheaded an effort in the 1990s to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.

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.

Large crowds are expected when the museum, which was built at a cost of $140 million, opens Sunday. Museum officials said this week at least 85,000 tickets have already been reserved for visits in the first weeks.

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 L.E.D. 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 another 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 earlier this week 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 of gallery space and a 21,000 square foot “vault” — seemingly suspended at the center of the structure — that house all 2,000 or so pieces of The Broad’s collection, with the exception of a life-sized fire truck.

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 1960s, providing “a truly unique opportunity to experience these rare master works free,” she said.

Broad said this week that 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.

The Broad, at 221 S. Grand Ave., will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Doors will 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.

— City News Service

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