If you enter the Broad on the north side of the building, right next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, you see what looks like a giant stack of plates.
As Joanne Heyler, director/chief curator of the Broad Foundation explains, it's a work by Robert Therrien, a Los Angeles artist who's had a studio downtown for decades.
"It looks like a stack of plates that is about to topple, and if you walk around it, it actually begins to perform an illusion as if the plates were spinning," Heyler says.
Heyler likes having the work of an artist from L.A. act as the first piece visitors see when they enter the museum. Somehow the sounds of downtown are kept out of the museum lobby, leaving only the music from a new video installation by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, which floats out of the galleries on the first floor.
Moving forward, you arrive at a massive escalator that Heyler measures at over 100 feet long. She says it "starts the process of the visitor understanding what this massive, gray, sculptural element in this building is. So you enter under it in the lobby, you go through it in the escalator, and once you're in the galleries on the third floor, you're walking on top of the so-called 'vault.'"
After you're shuttled through the vault, you're greeted by a Jeff Koons sculpture at the entrance to the third-floor galleries.
The Koons sculpture, part of the artist's "Celebration" series, gives off what Heyler describes as "a gesture of graciousness that's fun to have in a museum that's making its debut to a new public."
The third-floor galleries — which also contain pieces by artists like Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Andy Warhol — are home to works that, in the past, might have been loaned to other museums. Heyler estimates that the Broad Foundation has made over 8,000 loans to more than 500 museums globally.
Many of the artworks on display at the Broad will be making their first appearances in L.A. These include the previously mentioned installation by Kjartansson, as well as Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room," and Heyler says that roughly half of the works on view haven't been seen in L.A. before.
Heyler takes us out of the third-floor galleries and toward the museum's vault, which contains "the paintings that aren't either on loan or on view here in the museum. They're awaiting their moment in the spotlight," Heyler says with a laugh.
Upon arriving at the vault, Heyler proudly notes that it has "enough space to store all of the 2D, non-photographic work in the collection. And there's room for growth, since we add an artwork to the collection once a week."
But does the chief curator ever get lost in a multi-story building that has so many different hallways and corners?
"When you work on the design and the construction of a building for five years," Heyler explains, "I could probably get through this building blindfolded."
After exploring the vault, Heyler moves further into the museum's underbelly and comes across the Broad's enormous freight elevator. It's 21 feet wide and 14 feet deep — bigger than many city apartments. Why would this museum need such an enormous elevator?
Of course — an Ellsworth Kelly painting that Heyler says is 20 feet long.
This is basically the museum equivalent of the prep kitchen, where everyone's chopping things and getting them ready. Is this where art is framed?
Pedestals are built and mounts are made that secure the artworks to those pedestals, and there's a sealed-off workshop there for all the construction. Everything is carefully designed so that there's a minimum of any kind of dust or debris coming into the rooms where the art's actually stored, and that's thanks in part to little sticky mats that are in front of each door. If you work in a lab or someplace with highly precious things, you often find these sticky mats that take a bit of the dirt off your shoes as you walk in.
Finally, Heyler takes us to a room that looks like a giant, walk-in refrigerator. The sign on the door: "This area is humidity-controlled. Please keep door shut."
Heyler confesses that she jokingly refers "to this as the art fridge. It's specially constructed to contain color photography and other artworks that benefit from being in a little cooler temperature than the rest of the museum."
The "art fridge" is equipped with its own climate-control system, "so the humidity and the temperature are precise," Heyler says. "This is where all the Cindy Sherman photographs are stored. There are 124 of them in the collection."
This story has been updated.