October 2008, Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Inaugural Exhibition
Broad Contemporary Art Museum—Inaugural Exhibition Review
The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) is the new contemporary art wing of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. With three spacious floors completely devoted to contemporary art, BCAM is an impressive addition to LACMA. Made possible by considerable donations from Eli and Edythe Broad and designed by Renzo Piano, BCAM stands in tribute to the power and importance of contemporary art.
What is immediately striking about BCAM’s Inaugural Exhibition is the vast number of renowned works on display. These works include Andy Warhol’s Elvis, Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, Chris Burden’s L.A.P.D. Uniform, Jasper Johns’s Flag, Damien Hirst’s Away from the Flock, Leon Golub’s White Squad V, and a wonderful collection of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills. With artwork so recognized and revered throughout the art world, the exhibition is quite remarkable.
The impressiveness of singular works however does not overpower the overall lack of cohesiveness and continuity throughout the exhibition as a whole. Wandering through the exhibition is a lot like flipping through random pages of an art history textbook. There is a lack of historical context and flow as the viewer moves between completely disparate artists. Shifting from the artwork of Hirst to Sherman or from Holzer to Burden to Mike Kelly is anything but a smooth transition. It creates a rupture, which undermines the understanding of artistic movements, progression, and historical context. Anyone unfamiliar with art history is sure to be perplexed about such historical subtexts after this kind of exhibition experience.
Perhaps most disappointing about the exhibition is the utter lack of new art. The exhibition highlights contemporary art of the recent past at the expense of the here and now. With the exception of Mike Kelly’s Gym Interior, the exhibition lacks current art, emerging artists, and new media (Gym Interior is the only video piece in the entire exhibition). With this lack of new art comes a lack of surprise and inspiration. Instead of being inspired by the exciting future of art, the viewer is stuck in the enshrinement of the familiar, accepted past.
While BCAM’s Inaugural Exhibition is worth seeing for its abundance of renowned work, don’t expect to be artistically educated or inspired. With such a beautiful spacious new building devoted to contemporary art however, BCAM has the potential for greatness. It will be interesting to see if future BCAM exhibitions take more risk in embracing and displaying new, emerging, or even controversial artists.
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Melissa Rourke is an artist working primarily in sculpture and video. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a BFA in Visual Art and is now living in Los Angeles.