After Thursday’s night’s black-tie gala opening for 700 at the new Broad museum, what could possibly come next?
Another gala opening Friday for nearly 700 more guests, and another star-studded guest list -- with former President Clinton topping the list of celebrities, artists, art collectors, arts professionals and friends of Eli and Edye Broad, the couple behind L.A.’s new contemporary art museum.
“We had so many people to invite that we had to split [the party] into two nights,” said Eli Broad, as he greeted early arrivals on the plaza beside the dramatic honeycombed facade of fiberglass-reinforced concrete.
Like the other guests, Clinton toured the museum before dinner, except that the Broads acted as his personal tour guides.
“I love it,” Clinton said in a casual conversation in the third-floor galleries. “Giving this gift to people is a huge deal. I was thinking about the difference in always trying to change things in a big way and in trying just to make things better for people with the lives they have. It’s really important, the idea of democratizing access to art.”
Of his friendship with the Broads, Clinton turned to them and asked, “What year did you come and sit in the living room with me?” Edye Broad noted that Clinton daughter Chelsea, now an active figure in the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, had been a baby at the time and that Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of State, had been Eli’s lawyer. After settling on 1983, Clinton said, “I looked up one day and Eli was in my living room, and my life has never been the same.”
As he continued his tour, Clinton greeted a steady stream of guests, who then continued to tour the museum, marveling at the works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha and more.
Nor did the architecture go unnoticed. “I love the asymmetry of the form around the escalator,” said Elliot Hundley, who was among the artists spotted, along with Edgar Arceneaux, Kenny Scharf and Maynard Monrow. Celebrities in attendence included Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Perry, LeVar Burton, Fran Drescher, Heidi Klum, Tim Allen, Larry King and Michael York, among others.
Jeffrey Soros, president emeritus of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s board, called the museum “monumental,” saying, “It’s great for downtown, it’s great for L.A., it’s great for the world. This is a major contribution on all three levels.”
Christopher Koelsch, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Opera, welcomed the new neighbor to downtown L.A. “It helps to enrich the tapestry of the arts community, and it’s a huge pleasure to be here to celebrate,” he said.
“It’s a fabulous addition to Los Angeles,” said Billie Milam Weisman, director of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation in Los Angeles.
Downstairs, the line moved quickly for Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room -- The Soul of Millions of Light Years Away,” which only one guest may enter at a time.
“It’s spectacular but a little bit scary,” said Linda Janger, a Hammer Museum board member, of the room housing an endless-appearing LED light display. “You have to stand in the center because there’s water all around -- like a moat.”
According to founding Broad museum director Joanne Heyler, visitors will not have to wait in line at all to see the mirrored room after the museum opens. She said guests will sign in and then, five minutes before their turn comes up, they’ll be alerted by their cellphones.
On Friday evening, less formal than Thursday’s event, Heyler showed off the silver flats she paired with her stylish black slacks. “I’ve done a lot of walking for a number of days on a lot of gallery floors that are concrete,” she said.
The invitation specified cocktail attire, yet as usual in Los Angeles, many guests dressed as they pleased -- in a range of fashions from surfer shorts to designer duds.
After touring the museum, guests crossed Grand Avenue for dinner and entertainment, beginning with a 49-piece band, in a glass structure surrounded by views of the surrounding arts venues.
“I’m so proud of my city tonight,” said Burton, recorded one of the museum’s audio tours. “This is a world-class museum of contemporary art, unlike any in the world, with a collection that cannot be rivaled, and the Broad is free. That’s not an inconsequential thing to mention. There is no barrier to entry. This is for all the people of Los Angeles and all of the visitors who come to the city.”
Seated near the stage, Perry said he figured he’d see the museum after dinner. “I’m just looking forward to seeing everything,” he said. “It’s amazing that [the Broads] donated the museum to the city.”
In formal ceremonies, Heyler welcomed guests and noted that 100,000 advance tickets have already been booked. “With tremendous appreciation, we are here to celebrate an art collector you may have heard about lately,” she said, naming as the collector: “Edye Broad,” before adding, “Edye is joined tonight by her husband, Eli.”
Eli Broad followed, also acknowledging his wife as the first art collector in the family. “She got interested in contemporary art, and looking across the street at the museum, I’m sure glad she did,” he said. “This museum represents our partnership and our shared vision of giving back to the city and of making art accessible to as many people as possible.”
Following the chilled melon soup and a fish course of grilled cobia with “beet, horseradish and ‘everything bagel’ topping,” Clinton joined Broad at the podium to propose a toast.
“Eli Broad walked into my life more than 30 years ago, and he and Edye have been great friends to Hillary and me virtually ever since,” he said. He added that the museum is “a gift for those who believe that ordinary people of modest means still have dreams and imaginations ... they want to feel what you feel when art fires your imagination.”
“Try to imagine the kind of people who will pass the building, go in, see things that would otherwise never have encountered. In the end, that is the greatest gift,” Clinton added. “So I ask all of you to join me in a toast to Eli and Edye.”