In the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, there’s a handful of world class museums that have some of the greatest contemporary works in the world. The newest, and most stylish, is The Broad, and it redefines the contemporary art experience.
At first look, even the honeycomb exterior of the fairly nascent establishment exudes a style and creativity of its own. The Broad (rhymes with road, named after the philanthropist Eli Broad who opened it with his wife) is a stone’s throw from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and right across the street from Los Angeles’ venerable MOCA Grand Avenue location, making the four block radius around it a cultural excursion in of its own.
The new museum, which opened last September, houses nearly 2,000 works; from pop art icons like Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol to current artists like Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst.
This past Saturday night, not only did I get to explore the museum’s meticulously culled trove of brilliant artwork, but I also got to take part in the July instalment of The Broad’s summer Nonobject(ive) Summer Happening series, which featured an equally avant-garde lineup of musicians and choreographers performing throughout the whole museum.
My night began with going immediately to the third floor and getting immersed into Murakami’s ‘Land of the Dead’ piece, a stunning, massive work that stretches 82 feet across the room that is replete with the stylings of traditional Japanese art.
From there I explored the entire floor’s exhibits, from the kitschy Warhol, the street-art minded Haring, the enigmatic Basquiat, the massive balloon sculptures of Jeff Koons and many others.
Whether exploring on your own time or listening to brief explanations of some of the instalments from Broad employees, a good portion of the night can be spent taking in the art the museum has in its display collection (and many pieces you can view through a window in their back of house storage).
One of the museum’s most popular instalments, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, a galvanizing visual experience that has probably made its way into your Instagram feed a few times if you’re an Angeleno, was closed for the nights event understandably due to its ability to draw a crowd. After some time spent viewing the upstairs exhibits, I went down to check out the museum’s first special exhibition for Cindy Sherman’s ‘Imitation of Life.’
Sherman, a famed photographer and director, shared 120 portraits of women, and herself, to be on display at The Broad until October 2. From her early black-and-white stills of women in film to anachronistic portraits with classic ensembles juxtaposed with a contemporary presentation, the walkthrough in the museum’s first floor covers nearly four decades of work from the iconic photographer.
Following the exhibition, I went outside to the plaza stage situated in the lawn adjacent to The Broad and caught the first outdoor performance from Mas Ysa, an experimental synthpop performer who delivered honeyed vocals over an array of synths.
Mas Ysa, otherwise known as Quebecois singer/producer Thomas Arsenault, played a great set, his vibrant, beat-centric compositions and delicate vocal style got the crowded attendance dancing like crazy.
Halfway through his set I also caught a little bit of the one by Anenon’s — the nom de plume of Angeleno electronic music producer and saxophonist Brian Allen Simon, performed as a three piece in The Broad’s Oculus Hall on the second floor.
The amalgam of electronics, tenor sax, clarinet and drums was an aural journey of free-form jazz colliding with textured, spacey electronic music that practically turned the dimly lit hall into the most tactile version of pure reverie.
Following Mas Ysa’s set outside, indie pop sensation Sky Ferreira and her retinue took the stage to “DJ” an eclectic mix of 80s and new pop tunes. From Madonna, Devo and Oingo Boingo to current acts like Ariel Pink & Thundercat, the mix was fun and danceable but more just a bunch a friends hanging out and listening to great songs, along with 300 or so dancing spectators.
When I had my fill of “Little Girls” and pre-True Blue Madonna, I went back to the Oculus Hall for a unique reading from punk’s most famed storyman, Richard Hell.
Hell did a reading of a new book in the works in collaboration with British electronic artist Haxan Cloak, who scored each of Hell’s passage with mood setting synth scapes. The collaboration, which began as email correspondence, came to fruition as a live performance for the first time at The Broad that night.
Anyone with even a scant understanding of the music history of 70s New York can effusively praise the work and influence of Richard Hell, whether with the Voidoids or the slew of subsequent projects he took on, Hell is a true legend in the contested history of punk.
Speaking of punk, he spent the first portion of his time talking about the era when he was reciting an introduction to a photographic punk history book, which was a tongue-in-cheek if slightly wistful look back on those epochal years for him and many other artists.
Following his reading meets music set, I went and caught some of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s performance upstairs to end my night at The Broad. Smith, whom I had really enjoyed opening for Floating Points back in April, performed a mesmerizing set of her synth-based music, which perfectly complemented the gorgeous, artful room she was performing in.
With the aforementioned Murakami piece behind her, she performed with a board of synths and her ethereal vocals to a packed crowd. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend catching her set if you enjoy textural, dynamic synth music.
This “Broad Happening” as the venue has dubbed it, is another success story for an excellent museum that is proving that Los Angeles deserves to be considered a cultural hub.
The music selected for the night could not have been better picked. Rather than simply selecting in vogue performers, The Broad, with help from former Pitchfork editor and current Broad music curator Brandon Stosuy and writer Bradford Nordeen, curated a handful artists who were as unique and captivating as the museum hosting it.
The Nonobject(ive) series, which happens again on August 20th, is a must if you’re spending your summer in LA.