, The Broad Museum Reopens, The Nzuchi News Forbes

The Broad Museum Reopens

, The Broad Museum Reopens, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Eli Broad, the Los Angeles real estate magnate turned philanthropist, civic leader, and art collector, died April 30, 2021. His legacy is most evident on Grand Street in downtown Los Angeles, home to the Frank Gehry masterpiece Walt Disney Hall, as well as his namesake museum, The Broad Museum, repository of his art foundation’s collection which, regrettably, he did not live to see reopen.

But The Broad has indeed reopened, and they have done so with a brilliant new re-installation of the selections from the permanent collection on its third floor, as well as a temporary exhibition on the ground floor, “Invisible Sun” of works that speak to issues of social justice, racial equity and healing.

Maybe it’s because absence makes the heart grow fonder, maybe it’s because of the dreariness of the last year, and maybe it’s because I brought along my daughter, but the permanent collection, in its current iteration, seemed to me a better edited, much stronger presentation of the collection’s strengths than ever before.

The permanent collection exhibition of artists from the second half of the 20th Century now has special installations with a deep focus on a few artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Kara Walker.


The Warhol display includes several early works allows us to see the multiplicity of strategies, approaches and subjects Warhol experimented with. There are paintings that recall ads on the back of comic books, asking “What is Your Rupture” (1961), and a “Dance Diagram” painting, followed by some of his early Pop Culture portraits such as the Silver Elvis (1963), Liz (Elizabeth Taylor) 1963, and “Two Marilyns” (Marilyn Monroe) (1963). There is also one of Warhol’s 1964 “Flowers” work which is important because it signals Warhol’s turn to silkscreens and multiples which would become his signature technique

There are also some early Warhol works drawn from actual movie stills or news photos, such as “The Kiss” (Bela Lugosi) from 1963, “Most Wanted Men No. 6” from 1964 , and “Riot” circa 1963, a news photo of police setting dogs on a Black man. Today, most people would not guess these are Warhols. However, it is easy to imagine a contemporary artist making those works – in this way Warhol was prescient as regards the appropriation of popular images and a particular American fascination with movies, racist police action, crime and punishment.  

The Broad is also exhibiting all 13 Basquiat works in its collection shown together for the first time.  Basquiat, whose works date from the 1980s (he died at age 27 in 1988) was one of the few prominent Black artists at the time, and his work references a wide spectrum of issues and themes, including a veneration of Jazz artists and a critique of capitalist society, slavery and racism, in a chaotic neo-primitive style all his own.

Given that a Basquiat “Skull” painting recently sold at auction for some $110 Million – to be able to stand in a room with so many of his works just for the price of parking (admission to the Broad is free; parking is not), makes one feel all the more grateful for public art institutions – and the wealth that culture gifts us. To wit: You don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to have a room of Basquiats or Warhols – you just need to go to Grand Street.

There is also a room devoted to Kara Walker that includes all ten pieces in the collections, most notably Walker’s decoupages, black silhouette cut-outs, sometimes affixed directly to the wall, which look at first glance to be depictions of the happy days of Plantation life in the Old South but are, rather, indictments of the mistreatment and vicious crimes against Black Americans during slavery. They remain powerful works of art whose importance has only grown with time.

In a similar vein, the temporary installation on the main floor, “Invisible Sun” (on view May 26 through October 3, 2021) also speaks to recent reconsiderations of history and politics. As the Broad’s website explains: “Developed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the groundswell of demands for social justice and racial equity, Invisible Sun features works that resonate with this unprecedented period of rupture and unrest. The exhibition’s title is taken from Julie Mehretu’s painting “Invisible Sun (algorithm 8, fable form),” 2015. While not created in response to these specific events, works on view speak to profound transitions both personal and global and form an appeal for healing. “

Artists featured include David Hammons, Oscar Murillo, El Anatsui, Alexander Calder, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Cindy Sherman, among others. Occasionally, the politics of political art matters more than the art, which is certainly appropriate. That said, what I enjoyed about this exhibit is that the art works were not all created in support of one particular cause and don’t reflect one specific political philosophy. None of the artworks beats you over the head with a particular belief or viewpoint. Yet each is engaging and most have a political dimension worthy of consideration, reminding us that artists often voice a nation’s or an era’s collective unconscious.

The pandemic has given cultural institutions such as The Broad the time to reconsider their collections and exhibits in ways that make our return all the more engaged and enjoyable. And I, for one, have a renewed appreciation not just for the pleasure of visiting a museum – something that I didn’t know to miss until it was taken away – and a deeper appreciation for the fundament of museums where Art is shared with the public and in this way becomes ours.

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