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The Broad Museum

The opening of the new Broad Museum downtown has been the splash of the season in LA.  We are lucky to live right next door to it, and we look right at it through nearly every window in our home.  

The opening of the museum has brought life to our block.  Normally Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill is active only when all the nearby bankers and lawyers go on their lunch breaks and during the dinner hour as theater and concert goers scurry from restaurants to performances at the Music Center and Disney Hall.  The Broad has brought a flurry of artistic people to the street at all hours of the day.  Our building is separated from the Broad by a big lawn (such a welcome sight as all irrigation is turned off around the city due to the drought) and two small groves of century-old olive trees.  They are beautifully lit at night, and I love the way our apartment looks into their top branches.  The lawn is filled with children playing and tumbling and running, and every afternoon someone seems to take a long nap on the grass beneath the trees.  It's a lovely testament to the way humans are drawn to green spaces, especially in cities.  

I have been going to the MOCA every Thursday night (free admission and late hours).  I love walking through it, and some of the same artists are featured in both museums.  There is something about the MOCA, however, that makes me feel intense and brooding, and I leave contemplating the complexities of life.  The Broad is filled with light, and I leave thinking about brightness and colors.  Even though there are certainly darker pieces on display at the Broad as well, the space feels open and whimsical, like a celebration.  I love living next door to it.  I love watching the people who stand in line to enter.  I love the swarm of Instagrammers constantly snapping shots of new angles.  I love the couples taking engagement photos in front of the facade.  

The experience feels almost like an amusement park - your path is set up for you and there is little room to stray from it.  One enters through several different layers, and the visit has a lovely cycle.  One comes off the street and onto the clean, white sidewalk adorned with little mounds of succulents that seem to have grown up between the cracks in the sidewalk into round bulbs.  Then one passes beneath the fabulous cast cement facade that looks like an elastic netting has been case over the whole cube of the building.  Then one enters the actual building, a big glass cube.  The first floor is an organic-looking gray cave that feels womblike.  It's cool and dark, plan but somehow feels living.  The escalator ride to the gallery on the third floor is like entering Aladdin's cave of wonders - a tiny opening in the cement canopy with a linear entry.  The gallery above is positively brilliant with natural light from the many little skylights above.  It is white, open, clean, and bright, and the works of art seem to float in the brightness.  I suppose this contributes to the happy feeling in the place.  At the MOCA, you descend between red and gray cement walls into the galleries below.  At the Broad, you rise upward from the grey foyer into a pure white Olympus.  

The flow of the galleries is free and open, and I love the arrangement of the works of art.  Brightness upon brightness.  One is aware of the construction of the building - the giant glass box beneath the elastic cement net - and it is possible to glimpse Disney Hall and the Dorothy Chandler through the windows to the northeast.  

The departure from the gallery is a descent down the stairs back into the dark and comforting gray organic cave.  I love that the storage room is visible through the windows as you exit.  It gives a feeling of abundance to the collection.  The lighting is soft and warm, and one exits back through the lobby into the grove of olive trees and out onto the lawn (and directly beneath my living room window).  

I love living next door to this museum, and I am thrilled to see that it is getting its due attention.  When the crowds thin a bit, I am eager to drop in on it from time to time to visit this heavenly space.  It always feeds the soul in a way.  


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