A steel beam is lifted into position at he topping-out ceremony commemorating… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )
When Eli Broad holds a public event, he seldom does it without the company of local politicians, cultural leaders and throngs of media professionals to underscore the influence that the Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist exerts on the city's arts landscape.
Broad presided over just such a ceremony Tuesday to mark a milestone in the construction of his namesake contemporary art museum, to be called the Broad, that is being built on Grand Avenue. It will feature works from the Broads' private art collection and will serve as headquarters of the Broad Art Foundation.
The Broad isn't scheduled to open until 2014, but the "topping out" ceremony on Tuesday morning recognized the placement of the steel beams that frame the three-level, 120,000 square-foot structure. A symbolic steel beam carrying the signatures of Broad, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others was laid on top of the structure.
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Construction of the museum, designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, began last year.
Broad said in an interview before the ceremony that he expects the museum to open its doors to the public in either late spring or early summer 2014. The museum's estimated price tag of $130 million has not changed, he said, though its completion date has moved from 2012 to 2013 and, now, next year.
The delays are the result of the complexities of the design, which calls for a raised trapezoidal structure, with a lattice-like exterior, sitting on top of a three-level parking facility.
"It's the reality of building a complicated design. We want to make sure we get it right," said Karen Denne, a spokeswoman for the Broad Foundations.
In a speech that had trouble competing with the noise from Grand Avenue, Broad described Tuesday's event as a "great milestone" and said he and his wife want the museum to be a "gift to the city of L.A."
Broad also thanked the construction unions that have worked on the building. "I myself grew up in a union household," he said. (His father was a house painter.)
He was joined by his wife, Edythe, as well as Villaraigosa, who made a point of thanking the couple for choosing to build the museum in downtown L.A. rather than competing sites in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.
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The museum will reside at Grand and 2nd Street. The structure's concrete and steel skeleton is visible from the street but is blocked off from pedestrian traffic.
Broad joked to the crowd about his impatience for the museum to be finished and his reputation for being difficult to work with.
"Since I've been known to be unreasonable, I think it's been taking a long time," he said. Broad recently published the book "The Art of Being Unreasonable," and his official Twitter account is @UnreasonableEli.
The Broad will be the latest structure in the long-gestating Grand Avenue project, which has seen significant delays. Cultural leaders in downtown expressed optimism about the role the new museum will play in revitalizing the area.
Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, located just across Grand, said the Broad will be "transformative" for downtown.
"Every person interested in art and culture will make the trip to see the Broad, and they will also come to MOCA," he said. He added that parking facilities at the Broad will make MOCA more accessible to the public.
The Music Center, which sits across from the Broad on 2nd Street, is in early discussions with the museum about a possible collaboration to mark the 2014 opening, according to Stephen Rountree, president and chief executive of the center.
Rountree said in an interview that the museum is a "further step in the cementing of Grand Avenue as an arts center."
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