The architectural design that Eli Broad is scheduled to reveal Thursday in a news conference at Walt Disney Concert Hall wraps the museum housing his contemporary art collection in a porous honeycomb. The billionaire collector and philanthropist hopes the $130-million building will help bring about his vision of downtown L.A. as a bustling urban hive of culture and street life.
The three-story museum will be known simply as the Broad, although the Broad Art Foundation is its formal name. The wraparound bonnet of interconnecting concrete trapezoids is courtesy of New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Lead architect Elizabeth Diller's term for it is "the veil," because it enables the museum to relate to its surroundings by providing slots through which visitors can look out on Grand Avenue, and passersby outside the museum can get glimpses of what's inside. Visitors will enter the museum at ground level, take an escalator bathed in natural light to the top-floor galleries, and return via a staircase from which they'll have views into what she has dubbed "the vault" — the storage facility on the first and second floor that will house all the art from the 2,000-work collection that's not on display or on loan to other museums.
"This is 40 years in the making," Broad said in an interview Wednesday at the Westwood offices of the Broad Foundations, alluding to the time when he and his wife, Edythe, began collecting art.
Last year, as Broad secured the various government approvals needed to change plans for the economically stalled Grand Avenue Project so that the museum could replace previously planned high-rise condos and stores on one of the project's parcels, the museum's working title was the Broad Collection.
"The idea was, if we called it the Broad Collection, people would say, `I saw the collection. Thank you,'" Broad said, fearing that the name would invite them to take a been-there, done-that attitude rather than considering the museum an attraction worth repeat visits.
The plan is to open in 2013 with about 200 of the best works from a collection that dates from the 1950s onward and is built around such luminaries as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Then a cycle of rotating special exhibits will begin, each focusing in-depth on one of the artists the Broads have collected and occupying up to a third of the 33,000 square feet of exhibition space. Curators eventually may augment works from the collection with borrowed pieces that help fill out the story of an artist or a strand of contemporary art history.
The point of having a museum of one's own — assuming one has an estimated worth of $5.7 billion, as Forbes magazine estimates Broad does after having built his fortune building and financing homes — is to ensure that the art is seen and not stowed away.
"If you look at history, too many great collections ended up in storage and not being shown," Broad said. He noted that Glenn Lowry, director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, where Broad is a trustee, advised him not to donate his collection there because "I'll only show 30 or 40" of the works.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art would have welcomed the collection, but in 2008, shortly before it opened its Broad-financed Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the philanthropist said his aim was to create a museum to house the art.
Factoring in construction costs, a $200-million endowment Broad is donating to the museum (it is expected to generate investment returns of $12 million a year, enough to cover its operating expenses) and the estimated market value of the collection, Broad says the gift comes to about $2 billion.
Broad says he hopes to begin construction on the museum itself by midyear, with a projected opening two years later. Construction on its $30-million parking garage will start sooner, he said. Broad is advancing $30 million for the garage, but the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles will gradually pay back his foundation and take ownership of the parking structure.
"I'm impatient," said Broad, who is 77. "I'm not getting any younger. We don't want this to be a memorial building."
With an eye to the museum's future, Broad also is announcing a 12-member board of governors that will oversee the museum. Eli and Edythe Broad will serve, along with three of their key advisors: Joanne Heyler, the Broad Art Foundation director and chief curator who will serve as museum director; Paul Frimmer, the Broads' estate planning attorney; and Cindy Quane, senior financial advisor to the Broad Foundations (there are separate foundations for each of Broad's chief philanthropic interests — education reform, science and medical research, and art).