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Broad Art Museum Coming to Grand Avenue

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, August 23, 2010, at 01:47PM
Eli Broad Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Eli Broad stands at the site of his Broad Collection art museum, approved today for Grand Avenue next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Eli Broad’s art collection has found a home in the heart of Downtown’s cultural hub. Saying that he and wife Edythe had “really always wanted to be on Grand Avenue,” Broad was quick to announce the site for his Broad Collection art museum after the project received its final government approval on Monday morning.

The $100-million facility will be home to a public museum and the headquarters of the Broad Art Foundation, and will be designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. The site, currently a parking lot, is immediately south of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and across the street from the Colburn music school and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

That grouping was not lost on Broad, who has played a role on the corridor since the late 1970’s. “I’m convinced Los Angeles is one of the four cultural capitals of the world,” Broad said before listing off institutions within just a few blocks of the museum site. “That’s a critical mass.”

While both the Broad Collection and MOCA will be displaying contemporary art, Broad emphasized that the two are focused on different periods. His collection focuses on more recent pieces, while MOCA’s works are concentrated in earlier decades.

By creating a museum, Broad hopes to see more of his prestigious art collection on display. “If we gave the art to any one or several museums, you know what percentage they would show?” he asked. “Ten percent, if that. They don’t have the gallery space.”

The planned museum’s 35,000 square feet of exhibition space should allow the display of approximately 300 pieces at a time. The Broad Art Foundation, whose collection includes approximately 2,000 works, will continue to be a major lender. “There’s plenty of art to go around,” Broad said.

The 120,000-square-foot building will consolidate the Broad Art Foundation’s collection, currently split between three storage sites.

Because the site is part of the Grand Avenue Project—an effort to develop Bunker Hill land owned by the city, county and Community Redevelopment Agency—the museum plans needed multiple governmental approvals.

“Congratulations, sir,” County Supervisor Gloria Molina told the philanthropist and former housing developer after the last of those was unanimously given by the Grand Avenue Authority.

The museum was first reported to be heading to Beverly Hills in late 2008. Santa Monica was later added to the mix and stayed officially under consideration until Monday’s vote was finalized.

In the end, though, Downtown was a clear favorite. “We want to be here,” Broad said. He explained that the other sites were only considered when it appeared that developer Related Companies’ plans for the Grand Avenue site would not accommodate the museum.

It was a dinner Broad had with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that changed the museum’s course. “He said, ‘What are you doing in Santa Monica?’” Broad recalled. “I said, ‘Antonio, I’d rather be Downtown but life’s too short, we need all these approvals.’”

By this time, Related was glad to add the museum. The massive project has been paying penalties to its government landlords for its failure to break ground since February of 2009.

“As a result of the economy and the need to jump-start the project, they ceded that small portion of land to us,” Broad explained. “They think that with the park underway and with this museum underway, it will jump-start the entire project – hopefully sooner rather than later.”

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, based in New York City, has been involved in cultural arts centers around the world. Broad praised their ability to create a design that would neither clash with Disney Hall nor be anonymous next to it. The design will be unveiled in October, Broad said.

While Broad declined to discuss even general concepts of the design with the media, L.A. Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne was given a sneak peek at the architects’ submission to the museum design competition. He found that the work “contains the seeds of a canny, theatrical and high-energy piece of architecture.”

A $200-million endowment will fund the museum’s operation. Broad will also provide the $80- to $100-million for construction of the building. Construction on the three-story parking garage that will bring the museum level with upper Grand Avenue could start in October, and the entire project is hoped to be completed by late 2012.

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