February 2008, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum

LA’s Art Scene Moving into a New Era: the Opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum

By Alexx Shaw

The new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), part of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) transformation, opens its doors to the public in a three day free extravaganza on February 16 – 18. BCAM, funded mostly in part by Eli and Edythe Broad and the Broad Foundation, host three floors and an outdoor area for amazing contemporary works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and many more.

The façade of the museum resembles the Centre Pompidou with a bright red zigzagging staircase, and matching escalators leading up to the third floor where the collection begins right after the Getty-like view of the city. The building, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is structured for the viewer to start at the top and work their way down, encountering three floors of 17,000 square feet that are split into two galleries per floor. The brilliancy of the architecture allows the viewer to go either left or right upon entering, yet encounter every piece of art as the floor plan moves you seamlessly through each gallery. Not a work is left unseen, and it is impossible to get lost, for the cubic structure of the galleries surrounding the massive glass elevator (with Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Shafted) installed on the walls of it) acts as the centerpiece.

The works, which are displayed by artist and not chronologically, enables the visitor to gain a cohesive idea of contemporary art without having to worry about looking at title cards for every piece. The white hardwood flooring and white walls carry the visitor through without a hitch, and the ceilings, made completely of gridded glass, bathe the galleries in natural light, and allow for a break from the usual considered claustrophobic interior of the white cube. 

Weaving through the six galleries, specific works stand out; the first is Jasper Johns’ that is so powerful in person that you can’t help but stare at the thickly painted blocks of wood while debating which candidate you’re going to vote for this fall. Jeff Koons’ Cracked Egg, which has adorned the BCAM banners all around Los Angeles, is just as breathtaking in the gallery as it acts as a large mirror that reflects everything around it. Damien Hirst’s The Collector is a robotic display inside a large glass box with an automated ‘scientist’ looking through a microscope with plants and butterflies surrounding. If seeing live animals in the captivity of a glass box within a gallery is something that would interest you, or ‘speak to you’ on an artistic level, then you won’t have a problem with this piece. Robert Therrien’s Under the Table is just as exciting as it looks on the website, and walking underneath the ceiling-high table with larger than life chairs brings you back to childhood with Jim Carey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and throws you down the rabbit hole with Alice.

As you proceed to the first floor gallery, you encounter Richard Serra’s Band—a $10 million work that will be one of the most immaculate pieces of art you will ever see. Winding through one gallery and placed next to another Serra piece, Sequence, the viewer can walk through, touch, and sit in crevices within the work. Cocooned in a maze of steel, you feel placid and safe—a sanctuary from the rest of the world to think in and be completely encompassed by the art. If you go to see nothing else, make this your pit stop.

Lastly is Chris Burden’s Urban Light, which glows on Wilshire Boulevard both at night and during the daytime, composed of two-hundred and two restored cast iron antique street lamps that would make anyone want to dance around with Gene Kelly and sing in the rain. And the best part about these is that they are open all night.

It is legitimate to say that the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum rivals MOCA and MOCA Geffen, and through LACMA’s transformation that will be taking place over the next couple of years with a seven building outcome, LA is finally catching up to the likes of New York, Chicago, Paris, and London for our art scene.


LACMA and BCAM are open Monday – Sunday and closed on Wednesdays. Located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Lacma.org

Alexx Shaw for WM LA

Alexx Shaw is a freelance writer in LA.

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