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Eli Broad's art collection needs a home, so he'll build it

November 19, 2008 |  3:58 pm

A new headquarters that philanthropist Eli Broad aims to build for his Broad Art Foundation would include a 25,000-square-foot museum for exhibiting his collection, the foundation’s director said Wednesday. That exhibition space would be about half as large as the $56-million Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which opened nine months ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Eli Broad poses in front of Mike Kelley's Infinite Expansion at his current Broad Foundation headquarters in Santa Monica

One possible site for Broad's new museum is at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in Beverly Hills, but foundation director Joanne Heyler said that two other unspecified L.A.-area locations are “under serious consideration.”

“We’re probably going to have a Westside location at the end of the day,” she said.

Among the prominently available sites for museum construction are two parcels that LACMA owns across the street from its sprawling Wilshire Boulevard complex.

Michael Govan, LACMA's director, said Wednesday that "of course we've discussed" a possible Broad Foundation facility on one of those properties — but that "complications" such as the size and shape of the parcels and Broad's time frame for moving ahead could make it difficult to plant the Broad Foundation opposite the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.   

Taking a more-the-merrier stance, Govan said he isn't concerned that a new Broad museum in Beverly Hills or elsewhere could dilute the audience for exhibitions at BCAM. "L.A. is a really big city, bursting with art activity everywhere," he said.

Last month, an attorney for Broad sent a letter to Roderick Wood, the Beverly Hills city manager, to “confirm the continuing interest” of the Broad Foundation in moving there. The letter was the first step to surface publicly in a process that Heyler said will probably take 2½ to three years once a site is chosen.

The Broad Foundation's current headquarters The Broad Foundation (now based in 1927-vintage headquarters in Santa Monica, left) functions as a “lending library” for its collection of 2,000 works of post-World War II art, sending them to museums around the world that request pieces for exhibitions.

The new headquarters would supply what now is lacking at the foundation’s current building: galleries where visitors could see rotating shows drawn from the collection and a storage component designed not just to warehouse the entire trove but also to double as an easily accessible research facility.

In a new building, curators interested in borrowing art for their museums would have an easier time getting an advance look, Heyler said, and scholars would have a place to hunker down with the art they were studying. Currently, she said, the collection is stored in four scattered L.A. facilities.
Among the artists represented in the collection are Richad Serra, Damien Hirst, Chuck Close, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons.

Heyler downplayed the possibility that exhibitions at a Broad building would compete for audiences with BCAM and L.A.’s other showcases for contemporary art: the Museum of Contemporary Art and the UCLA Hammer Museum.

“We’ll be doing something different,” she said, adding that “we are supporters in a major way of all three of those institutions and would want to continue.”

—Mike Boehm

Top photo: Eli Broad in front of Mike Kelley's "Infinite Expansion" at the current Broad Foundation headquarters in Santa Monica.

Bottom photo: The Broad Foundation's 1927 building in Santa Monica, which is too small to house the public exhibitions that Eli Broad has in mind.

Photo credits: Anne Cusack /Los Angeles Times