Broad Museum Opens at LACMA

After five years and $60 million, a new museum to house philanthropist Eli Broad's private art collection opens this weekend at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. L.A. is already home to one contemporary art museum. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez stopped by the "members preview" yesterday.

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez: At the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the back door is the front door. An open escalator with a postcard view of the Hollywood Hills lifts patrons to the third-floor galleries.

Once there, the doors open and a sky-lit gallery of contemporary art treasures beckons. Jesse Standlea just walked in.

Jesse Standlea: It's awesome, I love Koons's work.

Guzman-Lopez: Standlea's talking about Jeff Koons' 10-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture of a Mylar balloon dog.

Standlea: Well my wife, she wants me to get a picture of her by it. She thinks the pink, her pink dress and the blue, that shiny reflective blue will look most excellent.

Guzman-Lopez: Shirley Monson's making her way through galleries displaying a dozen works by Andy Warhol, seven paintings by Robert Rauchenberg, and 12 paintings by Roy Lichtenstein. She's excited. Monson became a member of the L.A. County Museum of Art after she moved here from Michigan 25 years ago. Back then, friends from the East Coast warned her that L.A. had no culture.

Shirley Monson: They don't say that anymore. They might not like L.A., but they don't say that anymore.

Guzman-Lopez: The second floor seems to be reserved for the edgier contemporary art. That's where Bonnie Yaeger admires a Chris Burden erector set sculpture of a bridge. In Santa Ana, 37 years ago, Burden had a friend fire a bullet into his arm. He wanted to be taken seriously as an artist.

Yaeger loves the art. She says the galleries are lighter and airier than she'd expected. The new museum's part of a $156 million renovation that's transforming the 20-acre LACMA site at Wilshire and Fairfax.

Bonnie Yaeger: I think that's actually one of the things that's most impressive, is the way they've closed off the street and have managed to unify the May Company building and the other building that was so uninviting.

Guzman-Lopez: The L.A. County Museum of Art will decide how to display Eli Broad's 2,000 piece contemporary art collection. But Broad retains ownership. Patrons didn't express reservations about that arrangement. Now, museum officials are focusing on the art – including plenty of masterworks.

On the bottom floor, prosecutor Lael Rubin meanders through "Sequence" by renowned sculptor Richard Serra. The work consists of 15-foot-high steel plates bent into soft curves. Serra's created an elliptical path between hundreds of tons of weathered steel. Lael Rubin skipped lunch at her downtown L.A. office to experience it first-hand.

Lael Rubin: It didn't seem like I was here in the museum, that I just was transported.

Guzman-Lopez: Other works in the Broad Contemporary Art Museum includes basketballs immersed in a water tank, a table and chairs four times the size of an adult, and an upside-down chair and a mannequin leg jutting out of a painting. It was all a bit much for Shirley, a retired Inglewood teacher who'd only offer her first name.

Shirley: Some of it is weird, some of it's very nice. It's good to see once. Like, I wouldn't want to come back over and over again to see it.

Guzman-Lopez: The L.A. County Museum of Art is counting on curiosity to attract lots of new visitors at least once. This weekend's opening is free to the public.

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