As The Broad Opens, A New York Take and a Local Response

Like counting down to the last day of school, or like expecting parents awaiting their baby's due date, The Broad opening has felt like a forever looming event. For dozens of months, we've watched its construction, attended its Un-Private Collection talks, and discussed its potential impact. There's a particular mysticism that has accompanied the museum's arrival. Wielding so much money and influence through its sole benefactor Eli Broad, the museum comes across impenetrable both in its offering - a free museum with an already world famous collection - as well as in its design - a white monolithic structure atop Bunker Hill with cave-like hallways at its entrance. The power that it brings to Downtown's evolving art world propels it to sacrosanctity; finally, our savior of Grand Avenue, our deliverer of thousands of culturally-minded tourists, our bastion that Downtown is undeniably important once more.

So leave it to New York to knock it off its Los Angeles-anointed pedestal before it even opens its doors. Featured on the front cover of this past Sunday's New York Times, art reviewer Holland Carter shares his critical take on the Broad. He refers to its exterior architecture as "tight" and "unadventurous," and declares that its blue chip globally-recognized pieces make it feel "ordinary, old-school, (and) predictable." Unimpressed with the scores of Koons' and the Warhols, and instead more captivated by local greats Ed Ruscha and Chris Burden, Carter writes, "The concentration of Los Angeles art is the most interesting aspect of the inaugural show, at least for this East Coast viewer." Further focusing on rarely seen works by LA artists, he continues, "I wish there were more things like it here, under-known, offbeat, less than neat." Art from the underground, as he seems to suggest a yearning for, should hardly be expected from a collector like Eli Broad. If offbeat is the desired outcome here, then The Broad certainly doesn't stand a chance.

Carter's acknowledgment of being an East Coast viewer may be the most notable detail of his review. Traveling from Manhattan-and-sometimes-Brooklyn to sunny, silly, strange Los Angeles bears a lot of cultural assumption. He, like many non-Angelenos we know and love, plays into the idea that the point of coming here is to get weird. It's a very valid reason; it's part of why we're here too. But for a city whose most recognized cultural outpourings have been messy, unrefined, and abstract, perhaps the boldest choice it can make is to welcome something more sterile, sensible, and "old-school." New York, and most global cities, have decades worth of sobering predictable spaces. It's why Los Angeles' progressive culture has been so exportable, and why it's been met elsewhere with so much intrigue and excitement. Maybe The Broad will come across as too hackneyed for those who are looking for something edgier and wilder. But the museum may also mean that Los Angeles is growing up, still a wild child at heart, but with a willingness to take example from elsewhere and offer a wider breadth of cultural venues. Los Angeles' art tenants are rarely described as "old-fashioned" - perhaps that makes The Broad one of the city's most novel forms yet. •

Written by Ari Simon

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The Broad awaits us all - opening its doors to the public this Sunday, September 20
(photo via Retail Design Blog)