In mid September 2015, Eli and his wife Edythe Broad gifted Angelenos a 120,000 square foot honeycomb-like structure to house their infamous contemporary art collection in a chamber of diffused soft whiteness. Housing some 12,000 pieces of Contemporary art from Broad’s collection on Grand Ave in DTLA, The Broad is situated comfortably between Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and MOCA.
Broad may be a familiar name if you are a regular visitee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art whom the contemporary art building BCAM is generously named after. Housing Richard Serra, Chris Burden and Robert Irwin to name a few, BCAM at LACMA has been an enduring presence in exhibiting groundbreaking contemporary art. Surely it was a calculated move to have Eli Broad’s collection transplanted to its own freestanding environment--a conceptual whirlwind of an environment captivating in it’s own right.
Diller, Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler won a design competition to create the display of architecture we see on Grand today. A unique perspective to the design exists in dichotomy--Veil and Vault. Physically the project was colossal, proposing the Veil to be constructed entirely from fiberglass reinforced concrete over a massive steel structure and an unconventional non-Euclidean design for the lobby.
From inside the main gallery space there are no pillars for enforcement. The seamless flow between walls freestanding from the substructure could trick the brain to think the massive white blanket of concrete is weightless floating above our heads with ease. The diffusion of northern light through angular portals prevents a ray of direct sunlight ever contacting works of art. Heavenly pleasant and unabridged lightness speckled with the “greatest hits”--as a friend of mine described her experience--in all of contemporary art as we know today.
Contrasting, the Vault is opaque and curvaceous, a cool shade of Grey without a crease at corners in sight. Walls look soft to the touch as velvet. A two story escalator lifts you through a cylindrical cavity towards the 318 honeycomb skylights above the main gallery floor. To expand a visitor’s experience to merely witness what was once a shadow to the public, a state-of-the-art collection storage as well as curatorial and library spaces are seen through glass portals. Inquisitively peer into holding rooms with Basquiat and Haring paintings neighboring a Cindy Sherman or a Barbara Kruger--all inches from one another. Unique transparency to handling, curation, and exhibition.
Planned by Walter Hood and the architects, an adjacent plaza is as carefully tended to with century old Barouni Olive trees and an impressively manicured lawn. Between curvatures of the concrete bystanders smell the greenness, aromas of freshness, naturalness, placed in a manner where concrete and earth participate in a push and pull of balance. Relax and relish in your mighty exploration inside the museum moments before.