Braving the heat, lines and protests to see the Broad on opening day? So worth it, they say

Throngs of people waited in warm temperatures for a look inside the Broad art museum on Sunday in downtown Los Angeles.

Throngs of people waited in warm temperatures for a look inside the Broad art museum on Sunday in downtown Los Angeles.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
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By a little after noon Sunday, the first day the Broad art museum was open to the public, most of the protesters from United Teachers Los Angeles who had gathered outside had departed and calm had settled over the line of about 50 people awaiting stand-by entry.

The protesters, who oppose Eli Broad's support of charter schools, were dressed in red and passed out fliers as the museum opened its doors to those with first-day reservations.

For museum-goers waiting in line, Broad staffers handed out cold water and sunscreen. For those seeking a response to the protests, the Broad issued a formal statement.

"We respect the right of individuals to express their opinions, as it is in keeping with the spirit of the Broad collection. Many of the artworks in the collection reflect a strong social or political commentary about society at the time the artist created their works. Art is an educational experience, and we hope people come to The Broad and enjoy and are enriched by the art," the statement read.

FULL COVERAGE: Broad museum

Among the works inside the museum with social or political perspective are Barbara Kruger's "Your body is a battleground" and Robert Longo's 2014 charcoal drawing of protests in Ferguson, Mo.

Broad and his wife, Edythe, had planned to greet visitors as the doors opened. Instead, museum director Joanne Heyler welcomed people inside.

A Broad spokesman said the couple "had a pretty full week" with a series of dedications and galas over four days.

"Today was time for Joanne and her team to run the show and for the public to be front and center," said Karen Denne, chief communications officer of the Broad Foundation.

The mood inside the Broad, like the line outside, was lively but calm.

Roughly 3,000 visitors were expected Sunday. Admission to the Broad is free but reservations are encouraged. As of Friday, the number of advance reservations for the next few months had surpassed 100,000.

The free tickets are timed, and no more than 400 people are admitted at one time. The galleries felt comfortably populated Sunday and the 250 works of contemporary art were easy to see.

One crowd favorite was Takashi Murakami's 82-foot-long mural "In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow" in the first floor galleries.   

"It attacks all your senses," said Todra Payne. "We walked in and went 'whoa!'"

"So far it's my favorite. It's so colorful and lively and it makes me happy," said Eric Saenz, who'd waited 45 minutes in the stand-by line.

Why did he brave opening day crowds? "I just wanted to be part of the excitement," Saenz said. "Opening day -- how can you go wrong?"

Another atttention-getter was Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson's nine-screen video installation "The Visitors."

"We were the only ones in there when we watched it," said Ralph Loynachan, an artist who has a piece in Barnsdall Art Park's gallery. "That experience -- it was just transforming. The whole museum -- it's absolutely stupifying, it's glorious."

Jeri Loynachan was taken with the view into the Broad's storage vault.

"It's wonderful to be able to look into the bowels of storage," she said, peering through the window located on the stairwell landing.

Not everyone in attendance was a contemporary art fan.

"I prefer classic art," said Bryant Stone, who works in finance. "But my colleague had tickets and I live downtown. It's a great addition to downtown L.A."

The $140-million building was designed with transparency in mind, including a view into the museum's administration offices. The latter drew a crowd at one point nearly on par with Jeff Koons' famous balloon dog, on view on the third floor.

"It's a really interesting insight into Eli and Edythe Broad's thought process," said Richard Tom, an attorney. "It gives a real intimate feel."

A few hours after their arrival, the first two visitors inside the Broad -- Bob Weitz and Dylan Tran -- headed home.

"The light is fabulous," said Weitz, an architect, after taking one last look around the galleries. "It's quiet but strong. The collection is amazing. The juxtaposition to the [Walt Disney] concert hall is great. The city needed this."

 Twitter: @debvankin