Way back in December, I reserved two tickets to the newly-opened Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, the earliest tickets I could get were for a mid-morning Sunday in March. The Broad opened to much fanfare. I knew how hard it was to get the timed tickets the museum preferred its visitors to reserve, so I settled for a reservation on a mid-morning Sunday in March. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know I love art, so you can probably understand my curiosity about a new museum opening in my proximity.
Two weekends ago, I took my grandmother — who I get my love of art from — to downtown Los Angeles, where the Broad has a new shiny building that looks like a square honeycomb. I was already familiar with Ely and Edyth Broad, as they’ve contributed to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other philanthropic causes in the city. The Broads have amassed thousands of contemporary art pieces, and decided to reinvigorate the city’s art scene by establishing a new museum and making their private collection public.
Overall, I was impressed with both the Broad’s architecture and collection. The galleries are on the first and third floors accessible by escalator and elevator, and the museum offices and vault are on the second floor. As you descend back to the first floor to exit you see the vault from internal windows. I thought that was a great design decision, making the vault as important as the work on display. My grandmother and I agreed that the honeycombed structure was a great decision for bringing in natural light and making the museum seem even bigger. My favorite pieces were works from Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and El Anatsui. I also loved the Takashi Murakami mural, a John Baldessari painting and this Cy Twombly piece.
People from all walks of life were there to see what this trendy museum had to show, which made me glad that the free admission allowed visitors to see the art. While there, I spotted James Goldstein in the first-floor gallery, a millionaire who recently donated his very famous house to LACMA. If that’s not a good example of how the Broad has permeated several LA socioeconomic levels, I don’t know what is.
What I found most interesting about the Broad, however, was the behavior of the other visitors. I can’t tell you how many young people I saw with DSLR cameras, taking pictures of themselves and their friends surrounded by sculptures and standing in front of paintings. There’s an entire protocol for the line to the Infinity Mirrored Room installation, and it was so long that I decided to skip it. At the time, I was particularly annoyed — I was there to see and experience the art, not for a photo shoot and not for people who were doing it all for the Instagram. I’m guilty of snapping a few photos when I go to a museum, which the photos on this post make clear. But bringing camera equipment seems to suggest that you planned the outing as a photo op to show everyone you had been somewhere, and I wondered whether or not those people actually remembered anything about the Broad’s collection once they left the building.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just a reflection of the contemporary museum-going experience. The museum’s location, architecture and art is inherently populist, and the hype of the new drives people to want to go and say they experienced it first. (For the most part, if something is free in LA, people will go to it and if something that will make for a pretty photo is free in LA, young people will go to it.) While this isn’t a primary motive, the Broads want you to interact with the art in that way because you posting photos on your social media accounts gives the museum free publicity. Photos of the Infinity Mirrored Room are pretty, but they also cement the Broad’s name as the place to go for the pretty Instagram photo.
I’m not saying any of this is a good or bad thing — if you like to go to this kind of space and wish to have your experience in this way, more power to you. I’m also not really here to judge about the ways in which other people experience the world. It’s just an observation about the current ways in which we interact with each other and the art in the museum space, and how that affects our interpretation of the art inside those museums. I’m excited to see what the Broad has in store for the future, and how the Broads will go about acquiring new pieces to add to the collection.
If you decide to go to the Broad, plan far in advance and get reserved tickets. If you go on a weekend without a ticket, you’ll have to stand in a long line that wraps around the building. For my fellow museum-goers who like quiet spaces, prepare yourself for large crowds in the galleries.
Have you visited the Broad? Let’s talk about it in the comments.