The Broad Museum: The Experience

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Selection of Lichtenstein pieces in the Broad collection


Upon entering the epic structure that is the Broad Museum one cannot help but wonder how such a place exists in the hustle and bustle of downtown LA. The exterior ‘honeycomb’ pattern which dresses the building provides the visitor with an unprecedented feeling of fantastical complexity. Although the Guardian called it a “super-sized cheese grater”, there seems to be much more to its character, in my opinion. This detailed façade works flawlessly with the modern lines and surfaces of the interior of the Museum. It is a creative work itself and from the outside may seem like slightly too chaotic, but miraculously upon entering it remains simple enough to let the art speak for itself, a true feat for any architect. The unique part of the museum is that it is a “a veil over vault” design, in the words of architect Liz Diller. Effectively, in the stairwell you can peek through glass panels into the massive storage rooms which house the remaining collection, a massive feature usually hidden away. This is what makes the Broad a one-of-a-kind place. To me, at least, it seems like more than just an Instagram opportunity, but rather a place that people go to bask in the beauty of contemporary art at its finest, indicated by the 5 hour queue. From pop art fanatics to die-hard Twombly and Basquiat fans, the Broad is by all means considered a celestial city.

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Jeff Koons tulips and Christopher Wool Run Dog Run

I started my journey on the third floor. In order to get there an incredible escalator journey was required. If one doesn’t feel as though they’re entering the heavens of contemporary art then perhaps they can associate it with the depths of hell, where art created before the 1950s goes to die. Upon first glance I was met with Jeff Koons’ massive balloon tulips as thy acted as ushers into the expanse of the main gallery. To the right Mark Bradford’s epic Corner of Desire and Piety inflicted confusion, which wasn’t helped by Julie Mehretu’s Cairo. But ahead, the simplicity of Christopher Wool’s untitled RUN DOG RUN helped to calm a perhaps overwhelmed visitor. Yet, somehow the complexity of Mehretu and Bradford’s pieces harmoniously came together with the simplicity of Wool’s stencil pieces and the inherent loudness of the Koons creation. Furthermore, the vastness of the white walled gallery space gave it lightness, a most-necessary asset. Do I take a right, or a left? I asked myself upon arrival. My giddy-self was desperate to see everything.

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Robert Raschenburg Untitled 1954

Browsing through the rooms, one after the other, while discovering my love for John Baldessari and Robert Longo I felt spoiled. At certain museum exhibitions, besides from retrospectives, one is lucky to catch a glimpse of more than a couple of works by certain prominent artists. But all the while at the Broad you enter a room and it seems to be a mini-retrospective of artists’ best works, everywhere. I am not a tremendous Warhol fan but walking into a room and being surrounded by some of his most influential pieces has quite the impact. But imagine this happening in more than a few rooms. You would imagine that eventually the adrenaline would wear off and I would be left under-appreciating contemporary masterpieces, which is not what I found by the end of my outing. In addition, at certain points there were pieces that invoked strong feelings regardless of how jaded I felt. For me it was Robert Rauschenburg’s Untitled from 1954. It struck me as one of the most beautiful works I had ever laid my eyes on. This particular piece, the Broads collected in a trade with another collector. They traded it for a Van Gogh, which initially I couldn’t comprehend but after seeing it, I was swayed.

After a good hour on the third floor I made my way down, passing the vault en route. Expecting not to be as amazed as I previously was, I entered the smaller galleries with slight apprehension, which was swiftly lifted. The playfulness of the galleries shone through and provided a refreshing contrast to some of the more somber pieces of the other gallery. Albert Oehlen’s Ziggy Stargast followed by an entire room decked out in Murakami inevitably had this effect. The enjoyment continued but simultaneously was all slightly overwhelming to say the least. In all honesty, I felt like a toddler in a candy shop, a very expensive one, but a candy shop nonetheless. It was as if whatever I wanted to see (and more) was there. It really was all there. After a beautifully colourful afternoon I strolled over to the gift shop. In a moment of weakness after I picked up the entire museum catalogue, which easily weighs 10 kg, not easy when attempting to travel lightly. Regardless, it was the perfect representation of my day. Like the museum, the book seemed massive and overwhelming from the outside but progressing from room to room, or page to page, was a personalised and charming experience. One I am surely not to let go of.





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