L.A. as the contemporary art capital of the world? Broad stakes a claim at press event

Calling contemporary art an "important social, political and economic commentary on the way we live," philanthropist Eli Broad welcomed more than 500 members of the media from around the globe Wednesday morning to a press preview of the new Los Angeles museum bearing his name.

With Mayor Eric Garcetti, architect Elizabeth Diller and museum director and chief curator Joanne Heyler on hand, Broad took the opportunity to dub Los Angeles the contemporary art capital of the world, maintaining that with the Museum of Contemporary Art just across the street, the City of Angels claims the most "comprehensive survey of contemporary art" of any metropolis.

"Contemporary art is the art of our time," Broad said, the Diller Scofidio + Renfro building behind him shimmering as the sun peeked out from behind a patch of clouds.

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Heyler took the microphone on several occasions to stress the Broad's two "clear and unwavering" purposes: to connect with artists, and to connect art with the public. Heyler said that an average of one artwork per week is added to the collection, already deep with work from the 1950s and '60s. She said visitors also can expect to see a solid representation of work from the New York art world of the 1980s.

To date 85,000 people have registered for timed tickets for the Sept. 20 public opening and beyond. A mobile app for visitors will include four audio tours, one made for families with children and one a "candid and irreverent tour featuring collections artists talking about other collections artists they love."

Garcetti expressed gratitude to Eli and Edythe Broad for bringing their museum to downtown Los Angeles, which he said has been transformed from "a place people came to work and then left, to one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city."

Garcetti echoed Broad's sentiment about L.A.'s place in the art world, adding, "I think very few people would dispute that the makers are here. We have an art scene that isn't just marking history; it's making history."

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The final speaker was architect Diller, who said that after years of talking about the building in PowerPoint presentations, it felt surreal to talk about it with the real thing behind her.

One of the project's biggest concerns, Diller said, was being an effective architectural neighbor to Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street.

"How do you build next to this beauty?" Diller asked. "We decided on opposites. We opted for porous and matte next to smooth and shiny."

When the remarks concluded, media flooded the new building, where Basquiat sits beside Haring, Ed Ruscha abuts John Baldessari, Jeff Koons' balloon dog stares down his porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and the chimpanzee Bubbles, and Andy Warhol's self-portraits gaze longingly at his canvas of Jackie Kennedy.

Follow me on Twitter @jessicagelt 

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