Since opening last September, The Broad has become the latest landmark destination to enhance Downtown LA’s status as a cultural hotspot. Founding Director Joanne Heyler, who has enjoyed a nearly three-decade-long relationship with Eli and Edythe Broad, offers her insight on what visitors to the 120,000-square-foot, $140M building can expect to see on the interior.
CSQ What do you feel was the key to building the respect and trust that led you to be appointed founding director at The Broad?
JOANNE HEYLER I think one of the reasons the Broads and I have fostered such a successful working relationship is that, like the Broads, I’m an optimist. We worked hard to avoid dogmatic thinking about how museums operate, and that requires a bit of cynicism about the status quo, a lot of optimism, and a high tolerance for risk.
CSQ Eli Broad has said that you operated with a level of autonomy in assembling the inaugural installation and programming. What were your primary considerations in putting together what you felt would be the best representation of artwork while honoring the couple’s overall vision?
JH Eli and Edye were excited to share their collection with the public—as much of it as possible. My goal in curating the inaugural installation was to introduce a wide public to the breadth of the collection, which can be tricky when one of our main collecting philosophies is to collect artists in great depth. A chronological overview seemed like the best introduction, and now our special exhibitions, which launch this summer, will explore artists in greater depth.
CSQ What is your philosophy in terms of curating what visitors see at The Broad, and how does that mesh with the philosophy of the Broads?
JH We want to be engaging and accessible to a wide audience. In the lead up to opening the museum I kept hearing that people often feel intimidated by contemporary art and the art museum experience in general. We are interested in changing that through the shows we curate and how visitors engage with the art on view. For example, our app allows visitors to learn about the work on view before they visit. While developing our exhibition calendar, I think about whose work will really resonate—what will feel timely and fresh—and what we can do that reveals something new about art and ourselves.
CSQ How have you tried to “reinvent” the museum experience for visitors?
JH The Diller, Scofidio+Renfro’s designed building radically changes the traditional museum experience, and that was engineered very intentionally in consultation with me and the Broads. The key features are the views visitors gain into our artwork storage from the third floor galleries and within the central stairwell that really illuminate the “back of house” functions of a museum, which are typically quite mysterious to the average museum-goer.
CSQ How do you see The Broad evolving in the coming years?
JH We are still evaluating and reacting to the plans that were hatched before the museum was open. We are seeing what we got right and we are seeing areas that we would like to improve upon. The public’s reception of The Broad has been so overwhelming, but we can’t let that go to our heads, so we are strategizing about how to keep that enthusiasm and excitement going well past the opening year.