The Broad Museum Gives Los Angeles Art a New Place To Call Home

Los Angeles is home to one of the liveliest abstract art scenes in the country. It’s also becoming known for its recent cutting edge architectural projects. It’s appropriate that a collection of Los Angeles abstract art and Pop Art is housed in a building as adventurous as the works on the walls. The newly opened Broad Museum at 221 South Grand Avenue is drawing praise from art lovers and architectural critics.

Contemporary Art Covers a Lot of Ground

The Broad includes an eclectic and wide-ranging collection of works from some of the greatest postwar artists in the world. The collection reaps the benefits of careful acquisitions over a long period by Eli and Edythe Broad, the museum’s patrons. They assembled their collection of Modern Art as the works were being produced, not as a retrospective after the public embraced styles like Abstract Impressionism, Pop Art, and Color Field painting. The Broad’s collection nimbly covers the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. It also features rare canvases from artists better known for their sculpture.

A Building Worthy of Its Contents

The designers of The Broad have created a truly memorable building. It adds to the Los Angeles architectural landscape without overshadowing the works inside. For many years, abstract art in Los Angeles, like most contemporary art, was displayed in re-purposed warehouse galleries. Converted industrial buildings often make excellent gallery spaces for exhibits of artwork of all kinds. However, warehouses don’t add much to a patron’s viewing experience. The Broad has a fun design that makes a  more interesting backdrop for the works inside than a bland, off-white hangar.

The Broad Museum Just Might Be the Ultimate Art Gallery

Contemporary art looks best in spaces that draw your eye towards interesting objects, and that add surprise to the experience of viewing a work. Modern art installations often require multiple sight lines to fully appreciate the theme that the artist was trying to convey.

The Broad delivers interesting spaces for visitors to enjoy the works. The spaces in the building are versatile enough to suit any type of show from the Broad’s gigantic collection, or the visiting collections that are sure to follow.

The pierced screen facade on The Broad museum looks fun and funky, but it’s more than just an architectural gimmick. Museum designers must balance the proper amount of indirect light with the structure and appearance of the building itself.

In less ambitious buildings, this is accomplished by simply adding a glazed clerestory with translucent glass. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in a stark, monotone effect that detracts from the displays.

The pierced facade on The Broad lets sunlight enter from countless additional angles without exposing the artworks to direct sunlight. That’s a neat trick, and Diller, Scofidio + Renfro pulled it off brilliantly. The corrugated pattern of the ceiling in the main gallery complements and enhances the overall effect.

A Worthy Neighbor to the Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles is currently a hotbed of adventurous architecture. The Broad sits next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of the most notable and exuberant designs from local starchitect Frank Gehry.

The Broad adds interest and energy to the local streetscape, but it doesn’t make the mistake of trying to outdo the Disney. The designers avoided the urge to be outrageous. They never forgot that the building is ultimately a display space with important design requirements that shouldn’t take a back seat to architectural excitement.

Destined to Become a Los Angeles Landmark

Los Angeles art lovers have long supported the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art, despite the fact that the building isn’t innovative or compelling in its own right. The public deserves to view contemporary art in surroundings that suit these important trends in the art world.

The Broad has become an immediate sensation in downtown L.A. It’s likely to take its place alongside destination museums like the Guggenheim in New York that attract visitors to see the building as much as the collections inside.

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Photo courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess at

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