The new addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its doors to the public on Feb. 16, showcasing works by big-name contemporary artists and possessing an entertaining if at times perplexing atmosphere.
The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, or BCAM for short, contains works by artists like Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and John Baldessari. Bright, unusual and well-known works such as Roy Lichtenstein’s comic book-inspired paintings and Koon’s colorful sculptures attracted families, individuals and art lovers alike.
The collections are impressive, as there are endless displays throughout the light-filled museum of various artists, yet many of them are placed haphazardly, without much consideration for flow or rhythm. A few of Andy Warhol’s paintings, namely his “Campbell’s Soup Can”, “Two Marilyns” and “Twenty Jackies”, were placed towards the end of a comparatively dark side-wall on the third (uppermost) floor.
While the collections are extensive, there isn’t much in the way of cohesion or background information for the works or the artists in general.
Luckily, the pieces themselves cause one to stick around anyway. The oversize sculptures by Koons are childlike but fun, and Jasper John’s iconic images are eye catching. Also, certain rooms in the gallery are home to some thoughtful displays, like the seven-piece collection of Jean Michel Basquiat’s intense paintings on the second floor.
Eli Broad, a LACMA trustee and art-collector, donated many pieces from both his private collection and the Broad Art Foundation, and provided the $56 million for the creation of BCAM; thus the museum is named after him.
Broad recruited Renzo Piano, an Italian architect who has designed buildings in Atlanta and Paris, to design the modern-looking BCAM, located on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles.
Stairs and a steep escalator flank the outside of the new three-story building, with large glass doors serving as entryways into the galleries. Floor to ceiling windows provide abundant sunlight and great views of Los Angeles from the top floor, and an enormous indoor elevator shuttles visitors from one floor to the next.
While many artists on display at BCAM are well known or at least recognizable, others are less so for those not familiar with contemporary art. At first glance, certain displays are downright strange (yet interesting), as in the collection of Cindy Sherman photographs, where heavy makeup and prosthetics create the bizarre appearance of her subjects.
Another artist, Damien Hirst, created displays out of assembled animal skeletons, butterflies and other biologically based matter – which was off-putting and fascinating at the same time.
Many of the displays at BCAM are by artists that have something to say about society and modern culture. The paintings by Chris Golub are thoughtful and sobering, as is “LAPD Uniforms” by Chris Burden. Yet some displays, while well intentioned, are a little harder to grasp.
It was unclear what Mike Kelley had in mind with his “Day is Done” display, which was contained in a dark curtained room, and included Halloween costumes, pictures of school rallies and a creepy video of performance artists in black leotards and caked-on makeup.
The first floor of the museum houses one artist – Richard Serra, who has created two enormous sculptures titled “Band and Sequence”. The 200-ton steel sculptures were molded into undulating geometric shapes, and while they seemed imposing at first, running through their maze-like forms was amusing.
In the spirit of maximizing space, the street entrance to BCAM is also adorned with art. Visitors are greeted by “Urban Light,” a work by Chris Burden that consists of 202 street lamps placed together in rows. The lamps light up at night and provide a well-lit display. Other sculptures and designs are planned as future additions to the outside of the museum.
All in all, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum is worth checking out for the magnitude of the art alone – but it would be wise to gather background information before, as BCAM offers little in the way of context.