|Balloon Dog (Blue) by Jeff Koons
|Los Angeles Public Library
|Untitled, by Jasper Johns
There was no hope. The No. 1 sight on our Los Angeles to-do list, The Broad, the hot contemporary art museum that opened last September to raves, is much too hot for the likes of Midwestern mice like us. My wife tried to get tickets a month in advance: all sold out. My son advised us to do what his college pals do: get in line when it opened—maybe we'd only wait for an hour or two. Which we might have done, but by the time we got to LA it was mid-afternoon.
Instead we wandered downtown, visited the Deco lobby of the Fine Arts Building and the sphinxes at the Los Angeles Public Library, another 1920s spectacle. There's a cool museum of express delivery and banking in the Wells Fargo Building, and we looked at that.
"In Chicago, all they have is a stage coach in the lobby," I said. The most interesting tidbit I learned is that the famous Pony Express, racing mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to California, debuted in 1860 and was made obsolete by the intercontinental telegraph by 1861. A reminder that technology hurtling past our business models is nothing new.
Fun. As for The Broad, well, we'd have to save that for another time, when the popularity cooled enough so that the uncool people could stamp our cowflop-covered boots at the door, shake the hay from our hair, and squeeze inside for a gander.
Around 5 p.m. we found ourselves down the street from The Broad, an astounding concrete honeycomb designed by architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfrowhich. Out front was an ad hoc network of rails and time placards, like some kind of line control system from Disney World.
Ever the optimists, we figured,, heck, couldn't hurt to ask. So we get chuckled at by some hip security guard? The place was open until 8 p.m., and yes, we could go in, right now. Here's a ticket. Have fun. They were niceness itself.
"I didn't expect it to be that easy," I murmured to the guard, who smiled.
It's free to get in
Oh. My. God. Ed Ruscha. Jeff Koons. Jasper Johns. Robert Rauschenberg. Cy Twonbly. A jaw-dropping collection of names and images. My brother-in-law regaled us with the story about how this couple, Eli and Edythe Broad, teased the various museums around LA with their fabulous art collection—some 2,000 works and growing by an artwork a week—then told them all to go fuck themselves and opened their own museum, right next door to Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall.
I'm not an enormous fan of modern art—I'm happier in the French Impressionist wing of the Art Institute. But The Broad's collection is really first rate, including the best of Jeff Koons' whimsical stainless steel sculptures, such as the enormous Balloon Dog (Blue). It certainly puts Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art to shame. And having given up hope and decided we wouldn't even bother trying to get in, it was a wonder to find ourselves somehow miraculously inside. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.