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Wanna Fly Through Eli Broad’s Planned LA Museum?

Now you can!

The press conference on the plans for The Broad, has occurred, and more information is now available on the Broad Art Foundation’s website about the project.

If you have claustrophobia, please take the elevator, rather than the escalator-tunnel leading up to the vast skylit gallery space. I’ve experienced the architectural gambit of “compression and release,” but this one’s a bit extreme:

Wait a minute! That huge, columnless gallery seen in the video has no art in it! What’s more, its mesh-like walls don’t appear to be at all hospitable to hammers and nails.

Here’s an image of what the gallery will look like once it harbors some paintings, instead of mere earthlings gazing off into galactic space:


Considering that mega-collector/philanthropist Eli Broad had insisted that the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) be streamlined to provide as much space for the art as possible, why are the outer walls around the perimeter in his personal museum devoid of art, with paintings relegated to temporary, freestanding slabs?

Here’s the explanation I received from Karen Denne, chief communications officer for the Broad Foundations:

The free-span third-floor gallery can be shaped and divided into a variety of configurations, according to the curatorial needs of each installation or exhibition.

All right. Still, that’s a lot of lost wall space that would ordinarily have been used for display. What’s more, how can light-sensitive works be shown under a ceiling that’s one vast skylight?

Karen explains:

Part of the design process for the skylights in the coming months will be to devise the right system for closing or filtering some of the individual skylights to darken certain areas. Another option is to include opaque or light-filtering ceilings or scrims in those galleries where light-sensitive works are being displayed.

As I remember, Broad had complained about the expense of Renzo Piano‘s elaborate skylight systems during the planning of LACMA’s BCAM. This one doesn’t sound like it will come cheap. Maybe that’s part of why The Broad’s cost estimate has increased from $80-100 million at the time of the August announcement to $130 million now.

Art critic Christopher Knight argued yesterday in his LA Times appraisal of The Broad that skylights might be unnecessary or even inappropriate for display of contemporary art. But the exterior’s mesh cladding (reminiscent, to me, of the exterior of the Sanaa-designed New Museum in New York), which architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have dubbed “the veil,” is the most distinctive part of the design.

What we all really want to know is: Why was the drive-through museum (mercifully) eliminated? (The initial design called for visitors to come face-to-face, as they entered the lobby, with cars driving through the garage.)

Denne told me:

While that feature was an imaginative idea for the competition, it did not fit into the final design that had to incorporate all of the museum’s needs.

While we wait for the physical Broad to materialize, let’s go back to the ethereal renderings (with their see-through, ghostly visitors). As Banksy might say, let’s “exit through the giftshop” (in the lobby) and peruse the offerings:


Wait a minute! Will Broad (or more accurately, “The Broad”) be marketing  Koons balloon-dog miniatures (the only recognizable object on the sales counter)?

Watch out, Eli! Jeff might just send you a cease-and-desist letter!

an ArtsJournal blog