Eli and Edythe Broad wrapped the front of their new contemporary art museum with two 88-foot-long red ribbons to present it officially to the Los Angeles public on Friday.
After 40 minutes of speeches at a “civic dedication ceremony” in front of the downtown museum, including addresses by Gov. Jerry Brown, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Broad himself, the founding couple pressed a big red button near the podium and the pair of what looked like slanting red suspenders fell to the sidewalk — released by somebody on the white, honeycomb-fronted building’s roof.
Several hundred guests seated in white chairs set up on closed-off, gray-carpeted Grand Avenue rose and applauded, then went inside to check out the 140,000-square-foot museum, which features 50,000 square feet of galleries filled with the Broads’ art collection and storage space for everything that’s not on view.
The public can see it too, for free, starting Sunday morning, although most of the timed admissions already have been reserved for the museum’s first few days. A few walk-up tickets have been held back.
Broad recalled feeling a bit unmoored when he first arrived in Los Angeles in the 1960s, having moved his home-building company here from his native Michigan.
“Originally, I must admit, we had difficulty understanding Los Angeles … it was spread out and lacked a vibrant city center. I knew then that downtown Los Angeles had potential,” Broad said.
Besides fulfilling his ambition of sharing the 2,000-work collection featuring 200 artists from the 1950s to the present, Broad said the Broad continues the ongoing realization of the potential he’d seen downtown decades ago.
“This city over the last 50 years has been very good to us,” Broad said. The audience rose when he finished and gave him a 15-second ovation.
FULL COVERAGE: Your guide to the Broad -- L.A.'s newest art museum
Brown evoked another founding couple, John and Abigail Adams, in remarks quoting a letter in which America’s second president told his wife that he and their sons had studied commerce, agriculture and warfare so that subsequent generations could study music, poetry, architecture and the other arts.
“This is a time when science and engineering and technology dominate … attention … but the arts have a place equally as strong in our history,” Brown had said before quoting Adams’ letter. “This museum will help us appreciate the profound truth of [Adams’] words.”
Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, City Council member Jose Huizar and Kevin de Leon, the state Senate’s president pro tem, all spoke of the museum as part of downtown’s maturation — and applauded the free-admission policy.
De Leon, whose district includes downtown and the East Side, suggested that because of its location the Broad will be more accessible to “working families who don’t have the financial wherewithal to go across town to view art. You have democratized art for all … no matter their ZIP Code, color of skin or their legal status.”
Elizabeth Diller, the Broad’s lead architect, provided some hard facts — the museum packs 650 tons of steel and 36 million pounds of concrete — along with a few jests.
“They warned me Eli was tough with architects and most likely we’d be fired or quit before the project was over,” she joked. Indeed, Diller said, she discovered that Broad, who’s famously impatient, exacting, allergic to small talk and a stickler for cost-efficiency, was “a perfectionist of the OCD kind.”
But that devotion to the project, she said, “is what makes him a great client and a great patron.”