The Broad’s Broad View of the Contemporary

Located near the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles, The Broad is Los Angeles’ newest art museum. Opened in 2015 with funding from philanthropist husband-and-wife Eli and Edythe Broad, The Broad (a museum that does not have the word museum or art in its name) was built to hold the Broad’s private collection of roughly 2,000 works of contemporary art with an emphasis on works created from 1950 to the present, as well as house the Broad Art Foundation. Closed on Mondays, The Broad offers free general admission to see the permanent displays – visitors are encouraged to pre-book tickets on The Broad’s website up to one month in advance, but a standby line is also available. There are also special exhibitions that sometimes require a paid ticket, which can also be purchased online. The museum is open from 11-5 on Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-8 on Thursday and Friday, 10-8 on Saturday, and 10-6 on Sunday. More information can be found here:

Boasting two floors of gallery space within the 120,000 square foot building, the second floor of the building is dedicated to exhibiting The Broad’s permanent collection. What is unique about The Broad is that the space dedicated to the “permanent collection” actually rotates somewhat frequently, encouraging visitors to come back, and allowing guests to see a wider variety of works in the collection. Upon ascending the escalator, visitors encounter a wide-open space that is filled with monumental paintings, such as those by Takashi Murakami, Mark Bradford, and Julie Mehretu, as well as a larger than life sculpture by Jeff Koons. There are then two sides of the museum – on one side, there are works by more well-known artists of Western art history, including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Roy Lichtenstein, and Yayoi Kusama. There is a middle area that bridges the two sides, including works by Jeff Koons, and Jenny Holzer. The other side of the museum has newer and more innovative works that expand the canon of Western art history, including Robert Therrien, Jenny Saville, Glenn Ligon, Barbara Krueger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Longo, and Kara Walker. There are also two works by Yayoi Kusama, one on each floor of the museum.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors

Although I love the diversity and breadth of The Broad’s permanent collection, it is the special exhibitions that keep me going back for more. The first time I visited The Broad, the special exhibition was A Journey That Wasn’t, which highlighted never before seen works in the Broad’s collection, particularly those which emphasized time. My favorite work in A Journey That Wasn’t was Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors, a multi-media audio-visual installation that followed a group of musicians singing and playing the same song from different rooms of the same house, connected to each other only by headphones. The second time I visited, the special exhibition was Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983, a show created through a collaboration between the Tate Modern in London, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, and The Broad. I first saw Soul of a Nation when I was at the Brooklyn Museum, but I found the show so compelling I had to go back when I found out that it was in Los Angeles. Soul of a Nation focuses on the work of black artists in the US beginning with the Civil Rights Movement. One of my favorite works is Wadsworth Jarrell’s Black Prince, which is a painted portrait of Malcolm X preaching. Finally, I went to The Broad recently to see I Will Greet the Sun Again, a retrospective of thirty years of work by Iranian photographer Shirin Neshat. Although Neshat spent some time in California, The Broad’s retrospective is the first of its kind on the West Coast. Although the show featured many of Neshat’s newer works, including Land of Dreams, it was seeing some of her very first works, such as from her Women of Allah series, that I found particularly compelling. Photographs simply do not do justice to the great attention to detail and intricacies of Neshat’s work.

Neshat, Women of Allah

In short, there is no shortage of great art to see at The Broad. The reason both the temporary and permanent exhibitions are important is that they offer new ways of thinking about art history. Specifically, their exhibitions and their collection participate in an effort to craft an art history that is more global, and consequently, more inclusive in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. The Broad is just one facet of a larger movement within the Los Angeles art community to present new and more diverse artists that represent a more diverse art world. Other museums in the Los Angeles area that are working to present new and innovative work include the recent exhibition of Michael Rakowitz at the Red Cat Gallery, With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Julie Mehretu at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to name a few.

If you’re in Los Angeles, The Broad is a must-see, not only for a fun day of art, but for the building’s impressive architecture, and to understand how museums in Los Angeles are working to change the face of art history as we know it.

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Rachel Winter

Rachel Winter is a Ph.D. candidate, emerging curator, and museum educator. Rachel’s specialization is contemporary artists from Southwest Asia and North Africa, or the Middle East. Her dissertation examines the relatively unknown history of curating and collecting contemporary art from the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey before 9/11 in both the US and the UK, as well as how collecting and curatorial practices were informed by earlier fairs and festivals.