In the first three months it was open, the Broad — rhymes with “load” — drew more than a quarter million people. Free reserved tickets are booked through July. (Here are tips for getting in.)
LOS ANGELES — We’ve been standing on this stretch of Los Angeles sidewalk for 90 minutes, hopping from foot to foot, partly to keep warm — the morning sun has only just begun spilling over a corner of this strange and wonderful, white webbed building — and partly from over-caffeinated excitement. And we are very definitely not alone.
Like a magician’s endless string of scarves, the colorful line grows ever longer as clusters of friends, families and art lovers of every possible age join the queue on this chilly Sunday morning. Every now and then, a car rolls up and dispenses a twenty-something bearing breakfast fare — venti lattes and muffins or thoroughly decadent, egg and bacon-laden sandwiches from the nearby Eggslut eatery — for the friends holding her place in line.
So, yes, it’s a festive line and a patient one, but a happy sigh goes up when the clock tick-tocks to 10.
The Broad is open.
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The hottest ticket in Los Angeles these days is Eli and Edythe Broad’s new — and free — museum of contemporary art. The 50,000-square foot museum, designed by Diller Scofidio plus Renfro, opened in the city’s arts district in October and promptly began drawing crowds that encompass every demographic. In the first three months it was open, the Broad — rhymes with “load” — drew more than a quarter million people.
From the street, the place is arresting — a giant white cube that veils the vault within. The 318 narrow cutouts not only give the building visual texture, but flood the third floor gallery with natural light. And what waits inside is a spectacle — not just Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol works, but immersive music installations, a Ferguson riot photography exhibit, a giant polished balloon animal, an infinity light room that requires a six-hour wait in line — and Otium, a museum cafe that boasts a Bocuse d’Or chef and foie gras funnel cake. Yes, you read that right. It was delicious.
What makes this museum what it is — besides the philanthropic Broad family’s vast wealth, of course — is their passion for the art of its time, works chosen as they are being created, not collected later. The Broads have been collecting the work of contemporary artists for 50 years, and their collection continues to expand, with 50 or so new acquisitions each year. We’re the lucky beneficiaries.
On this particular Sunday morning, a current of excitement runs through the line as it begins moving in surges and pulses toward the door. Where outside was all whiteness and light, the lobby interior is hushed, all polished concrete and gray hues, with an otherworldly Gaudí feel, especially in the 105-foot escalator that tunnels upward to the third floor.
The first order of art-loving business is to get your name on the list for the Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirrored Room — the Souls of Millions of Light Years” exhibit, a mirror-lined room whose LED light display creates an infinite universe of dazzling light. Visitors are allowed inside one at a time for 45 seconds of awe.
So when you enter the lobby, head directly for the first gallery — the one with a huge line, directly across from the restrooms — and get a number from the staffer holding an iPad. Your cellphone will get a text when it’s your turn to return; there’s also a web link that lets you monitor your place in line as you browse the other exhibits. (Warning: It took six hours for our number to reach the top. By then, we were at the airport, weeping from FOMO — fear of missing out.)
The first floor galleries hold plenty of other enticements, though, including a mesmerizing, immersive music installation, “The Visitors.” Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s 64-minute work plays out on multiple video screens in a darkened room, with nine musicians performing in separate rooms of a decaying mansion. The music and visuals emanate from one screen as a pianist plays in the house’s great hall and simultaneously from others as a guitarist joins in, perched on the edge of a bed where his girlfriend sleeps, and a naked Kjartansson plays guitar in the bathtub. Strategically placed suds keeps things PG. Stay for a while or immerse yourself in the whole experience. The ending is particularly lovely.
There’s an entire gallery devoted to Robert Longo’s 2014 photographs of the Ferguson, Missouri, riots and another to Thomas Struth’s life-size photographs of the audience gazing at Michelangelo’s masterwork in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia. Standing in the middle of the gallery, you’re the David, watching the watchers.
Upstairs, you’ll find Warhol, Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and more, including Jeff Koons’ shiny blue Balloon Dog and Robert Therrien’s Under the Table, a selfie photo op — you, standing under the giant table and chairs — if ever there was one.
If your energy is flagging — it’s been too long since that breakfast sandwich — get your hand stamped, then head outside to Otium on the museum plaza, where French Laundry alum and Bocuse d’Or competitor Timothy Hollingsworth crafts whimsical, contemporary American dishes. Sip a glass of wine with your tasty avocado toast ($12) with za’atar and labne, or incredible foie gras funnel cake ($26) with strawberries and balsamic. Then head back inside for more.
If you go
The museum: Open Tuesday-Sunday, The Broad is in Los Angeles’ arts district at 221 S. Grand Ave., across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. If you’re visiting The Broad with kids, check out the “Looking With LeVar” audio tour for kids of all ages, narrated by “Reading Rainbow” star LeVar Burton. Find out more at thebroad.org.
Advance tickets: General admission to The Broad is free, but some special exhibitions may carry a charge. Plan ahead, and you can book free timed-admission tickets at thebroad.org. June and July general admission tickets are already sold out; reservations for August tickets open at noon on July 1. Pay $12 per adult for the special exhibition “Cindy Sherman, Imitation of Life,” June 11-Oct. 2, and you can tour the entire museum. Tickets are much more readily available.
Standby tickets: Didn’t plan ahead? Join the standby line outside the museum. For wait-time estimates, check the @TheBroadStandby Twitter feed, which is updated throughout the day. On a recent Thursday, the wait ranged from 2 hours to no wait at all.