Southern California's artistic and architectural movements, opera companies, legitimate theatres, and museums have, from an objective perspective, made the point long ago, and continue to do so. It remains true, however--not a bad thing at all, except perhaps from the Brahmin point of view--that the west coast's popular culture, from the movies to cool jazz to the many rock, rap, Latin, punk, and pop bands spawned in Los Angeles, LA's vivid street murals and even its street foods, have always overshadowed LA's "culture" with a capital "C".
In the autumn of 2015, high art and pop culture combined in a really interesting way when the Broad Museum opened near the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand. A gift to the city and its people from philanthropists and art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, the striking little music box of a museum welcomes the people of LA for free--yes, for free--to view its frequently updated general collection. You do have to book your visit as much as a month in advance, or wait in hours-long lines that wrap the structure's sleek, ultra-cool facade and its oculus. But either option is worth it to view the more than 2,000 pieces of postwar and contemporary art in the main collection.
The Broads know what they like, and have assembled quite the collection of pieces dating from about 1940 onward, by artists from around the world. Many of the pieces were considered shockingly experimental in their day, but with the passage of time, these establishment-rocking works of art have acquired their own patina of venerable respectability.
I guarantee you won't like everything the Broads like, but it is a broad collection (pardon the pun), and you will like a lot of it. It is a thrill for anyone with an interest in high art or pop culture to stand two feet from one of Warhol's original Campbell soup endeavors, to almost be able to reach out and touch a Jasper Johns flag (and, of course--please don't touch the art), or to see your own reflection in one of Koons' fanciful statues, which make stainless steel appear as buoyant as any balloon animal (see above)..
Some pieces will leave you in awe, and some pieces will leave you scratching your head, but you will leave the museum enriched in some measure. There are special installations, like Yayoi Kusama's humbling Infinity Room, which require advanced reservations, and special exhibits that do require a paid ticket. There is also a museum gift shop with lovely and correspondingly pricey wares that is almost a little gallery unto itself. Mind that you "exit through the gift shop".
In the last decade, Los Angeles has, more than ever, been recognized for its museums and its multicultural culture, high art and pop art both, and the Broad is a sterling example of this reconciliation. I don't know if Buff Chandler and her Culture-championing crowd would have cared for danger dogs, or street murals, but they would champion the Broad. Make the time to visit this new local landmark with an open mind. When a jewel like this is free, there's simply no excuse not to. Thank you, Eli and Edythe Broad.
The Broad is located at 221 S. Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For hours, special event ticket information, collection details, and directions, please visit http://www.thebroad.org/.
[Leslie Le Mon is the author of the Downtown Los Angeles in Photographs series and Highland Park in Photographs. She has lived in Los Angeles since 1992.]
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