Inside The Broad, Los Angeles' Gorgeous New Modern Art Museum

Exterior of The Broad museum, downtown Los Angeles Iwan Baan
Los Angeles's newest major attraction is called The Broad—and it's free. Named for a pair of art collectors and philantropists who made their billions in construction and insurance, this $140 million, purpose-built contemporary art museum—which is pronounced "Brode"—stands beside the swooping metal curves of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. The addition makes for a striking one-two architectural punch on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. As you'll see, the interior is a feast for the eyes, too.
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Escalator, The Broad, L.A. Hufton Crow
The Broad's postwar and contemporary art collection includes some 2,000 works, with a new piece purchashed on average every week. The collection is stored in a vault in the middle of the Broad—the underside of that vault is rounded in a cavern-like, otherworldly grey. This 105-foot escalator takes newly arriving vistors into a passage through the center of that art archive to the third floor, where they explore the 50,000 square feet of exhibition space from the top down.
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Tulips by Jeff Koons, The Broad, Los Angeles Bruce Damonte
"Tulips" by Jeff Koons, a favorite artist of The Broads, has a place of honor at the top of the escalator tunnel.
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Now, about that ceiling: It's called "the veil," and it's punctured with a honeycomb of 318, north-facing skylights that can be opened and closed to control light.
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With 23-foot-tall ceilings, the galleries are suited to monumental works (like Robert Therrien's supersized "Under the Table"), which in the contemporary art world are plentiful. That makes this collection particularly interesting for children. Those who are deeply versed in contemporary art quibble that this collection is perhaps too top-line and the choices are perhaps too well-known, but for the casual visitor, The Broad's selections make for a fine introduction to modern art: Works are generally approachable, understandable, memorable, or well-explained in the signage and on the museum's free app.
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There are quite a few of Jeff Koon's massive "Balloon Dog" series around—one of them sold for nearly $60 million in 2013—but the Broads own this one, which they used to keep on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), for which the Broads also funded a contemporary art wing. It stands before the east wall of the building, which is also shielded by the "veil" from Grand Avenue.
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Before it had this permanant home, new as of September 2015, the Broad Foundation mostly contented itself with lending works to museums, but now there's a place to display the cream of the collection. Not everything is on display at once—selections will change every so often, but the collection always focuses on the rock stars of the contemporary art world. Here, it's Andy Warhol, whose Campbell's soup can works first intrigued the museum's collectors in the 1960s.
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In addition to the heavy-hitting artists many visitors already know, The Broad also collects Los Angeles-based artists. This one, Edward Ruscha's "Norm's La Cienega on Fire" (1964) is a particular touchstone for the community. It depicts a fictitious fire destroying a beloved Googie-style diner in the city, Norm's. The piece has particular resonance for Angelinos today: In 2015, Norm's, which still stands, was threatened by development but was saved at the last minute by a grassroots preservation effort that made national news. Other L.A. artists that receive an airing at The Broad include Lari Pittman, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, and Mike Kelley.
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Another big work by Jeff Koons, this one was much too Hollywood to leave out of an L.A. museum: The 1988 sculpture of Jacko and his pet monkey has two copies in other cities, but this is the artist's proof, in porcelain.
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The Broad's opening is part of a master plan to turn Grand Avenue into an arts district. A century ago, gorgeous wooden mansions reigned in this area. But ill-conceived mid-century development turned the former Bunker Hill into a dull, lifeless zone. The arrival of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contempprary Art planted a fresh seed in the area. Now a new stop for the Metro subway train is on the way. The Broad adds a plaza with 100-year-old olive trees and a restaurant, underground parking. Future programming include movies in nearby Grand Park and other new restaurants.
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In some ways, The Broad is an answer to New York City's new contemporary art showplace, The Whitney,  now housed in a Meatpacking District building: A bold architectural statement that draws new tourists to a previously dreary area. If you've seen both, it can feel like deja vu. The Whitney and The Broad even share artists—here, among others, it's Glenn Ligon's neon "America" series. The Whitney has a single-word version, but The Broad has "Double America 2."
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The Vault Iwan Baan
If you take the stairs to the first-floor gallery, you pass by windows that peer into "the Vault," which is the central storage area for much of The Broad's collection. 
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Check The Broad's website for special works. For its inaugural exhibition, those included this one, Ragnar Kjartansson's "The Visitors," a nine-screen musical experience in a darkened gallery that people tend to spend 10–15 minutes enjoying; and Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room," which only allows one visitor at a time for 30 seconds. Arrive after opening time and secure a reservation to experience that, because slots fill up by the middle of the day.

The Broad is free, but you can make reservations online. It's closed on Mondays. Website: www.thebroad.org.
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