When The Broad opened to the public on Sept. 20, 2015, it not only became Los Angeles’ newest contemporary art museum, it also became the hottest ticket in town. A month before the museum opened, when online ticket reservations debuted, the museum’s website crashed from the demand. Six weeks later, nearly 275,000 free tickets had been reserved. And the museum had only been open two weeks.
The Broad had been a long time in coming. It opened five decades after Eli and Edye Broad moved to Los Angeles, over four decades after they began collecting contemporary art, 31 years after they started The Broad Art Foundation as a public lending library, and five years after construction of the museum’s innovative architectural design began on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. It represented the culmination of the Broads’ lifelong passion for art and the deep desire to share that art with as many people as possible. The public intersection of their collection and an architecturally distinct home to show the art came together with a generous gift to their adopted hometown: a museum, the art within and free general admission.
The museum opened to great fanfare: previews for more than 400 media from around the world, two dinner celebrations for nearly 1,500 artists, civic leaders, national and international museum directors, celebrities and friends, including former President Bill Clinton, and a public dedication with more than 600 civic, community and business representatives, including California Gov. Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The civic dedication featured two 88-foot ribbons that stretched from the top of the museum’s distinct honeycomb façade to the expansive sidewalk below, released when Eli and Edye Broad pushed a giant red button in a symbolic opening of their gift to the city.
But the real celebration came on opening day, as people lined up around the block to see the more than 250 works of contemporary art in the museum and under the sublime skylit third-floor gallery. They wanted to ride the 105-foot escalator that would transport them through the sculptural second-floor core of the museum, where the art was stored when not on display or on loan to another museum.
They wanted to peek into that storage to glimpse the art that might be on the gallery walls on a future visit to The Broad.
They came to experience contemporary art: iconic works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons’ 12-foot-tall blue Balloon Dog, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartaanson’s The Visitors—a 64-minute, nine-screen video installation of musicians playing and singing, one to each screen, perfectly and poignantly synchronized. They were drawn to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, standing one at a time for a minute on a small platform in a mirrored room, surrounded by LED lights that give visitors an intensely personal experience of space and time, reflection and infinity.
The Broad’s first audience reflected Los Angeles: all ages, residents and tourists alike, and every shape and size and color. The art and the architecture was for them to experience, to share with friends and family on future visits, and to have the freedom to visit favorite artworks, again and again.