Long before opening its doors to the public, The Broad attracted 8,500 people to nine art talks about the artists and artworks that would ultimately be displayed in the museum.
The Un-Private Collection series—eight public talks around Los Angeles and one in Miami featuring Broad collection artists in conversation with cultural leaders, plus one special event that invited visitors to see The Broad’s top-floor gallery still under construction before art walls went up—gave Angelenos a glimpse of the type of programming that would be offered when the museum officially opened.
The series of talks, named to capture the spirit of private collectors Eli and Edye Broad’s decision to create a public collection, began with the Broads themselves. Rarely taking the stage to speak publicly as a couple, the Broads appeared at the Central Public Library in downtown Los Angeles with Founding Director Joanne Heyler, just blocks west from their museum’s construction site. They discussed their decades-long history of collecting, their passion for making contemporary art accessible to the widest possible audience and their hopes for the museum. They also made light of Eli’s eight-figure purchase of an Andy Warhol soup can painting after Edythe had almost bought one decades earlier.
“Ferus Gallery had all the soup cans,” Edye said, “and they were $100 a piece, and I wanted to buy one and I thought, ‘If I bring home a painting of a Campbell’s soup can, Eli would think that I had lost my mind.’ We didn’t have a lot of money then. That would have evoked some discussion.”
After the Broads’ talk, The Un-Private Collection series featured prominent artists, including Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and The Broad’s architect, Elizabeth Diller, in a special event at Art Basel Miami Beach. Koons and Murakami attracted the largest audiences—with 1,800 people attending Koons’ interview by film director John Waters and 1,200 for Murakami’s sit-down with writer Pico Iyer. An additional 32,000 people streamed video of the talks online to hear the artists discuss the meaning of their work, their methods, their politics and their personal backgrounds. Paired with interviewers who were well-known in their own right—artist Eric Fischl with Renaissance man Steve Martin, film director Ava Duvernay with artist Kara Walker, for example—and taking questions from the audience, the artists were accessible and open to intimate conversations. The Duvernay and Walker talk sold out within a day, with the Los Angeles Times comparing the fervor to that of a pop concert.
The Broad had a unique, final act before its opening: Sky-lit, which offered the public access to the museum under construction—a viewing of the museum’s third-floor gallery before art walls were installed. People flocked to The Broad: the event sold out in 30 minutes and drew 3,500 visitors on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. The acre of wide-open space, topped with hundreds of skylights and accessed by the freight elevator still lined with plywood, inspired hundreds of Instagram photos and Twitter messages by awestruck museum-goers.
Two temporary artworks brought more light and city sounds into the space. Artist BJ Nilsen’s DTLA captured the sounds of the city, recorded in local neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles, and played them, distorted and collaged, through a single row of speakers spanning the expansive gallery. After the sun set, Yann Novak’s Stillness began, a 20-minute film projected onto a 200-foot gallery wall—juxtaposing the colors found in the light and atmosphere of Los Angeles with those found in Seattle to create a meditative, evolving lightscape.
Now that the museum is open, The Un-Private Collection will continue in 2016, along with special exhibitions and other programming series designed to illuminate the Broad collection in new ways for the public.