Today’s post features an essay by VCS faculty member Jeremy Sigler that was published recently in the print edition of Tablet Magazine, and is now available to read on their website. Titled “Eli Broad’s Selfie Dome,” the piece is a critical evaluation of The Broad, a new (2015) contemporary art museum in Los Angeles that was financed by philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad (whose history on the L.A. art scene is also examined in the piece). Here are three brief excerpts from Sigler’s commentary on the museum and on Eli Broad, including a bit on his successful homebuilding business KB Home:
The brand-new museum, with its “veil-and-vault” concept designed by the starchitecture firm Diller Scoffidio & Renfro, comes across as part Breuer and part Beinecke, with a splash of Bat Cave. It also has a reputation for long lines. When I arrived, I have to admit, I cut the damn line, flashed my press pass to an accommodating millennial who checked me in on his portable device (there’s no admission desk). I felt like I was entering an Apple Store for an appointment at the Genius Bar.
The gimmicky, hands-on nature of the museum was most apparent between floors. When I descended one level, I came upon a crowd peering into a strange portal window. Eventually, I was able to peek over the shoulders of a herd of rubberneckers. I could see into a cavernous, artificially lit, climate-controlled storage room—the “vault.” It could have been a top-secret NASA laboratory or the underground meth lab in Breaking Bad. The facility was filled with racks of paintings—paintings seen not being seen. “Storage” was being flaunted, the showbiz of the bank.
Broad is a man who has made a far greater impact on the world than Jeff Koons ever will, by giving more people a substantial feeling of having more (a home), rather than giving fewer people the feeling of having less (an artwork imitating kitsch). The KB Home (built on a slab in the desert with no garage, to save money) was a small step for mankind. Yet it is hard to ignore the many parallels between the sort of bubbly high-’80s kitsch that Broad collects and the flat (like a can of Coke) suburbanization of America that he helped manufacture. And there was one artist on view at the Broad, Peter Halley (surprisingly not stowed away in the vault) that seemed to explain this parallel. Halley’s clearly articulated model—an essay in paint—embodies the tract house to the degree that his painting can be considered a “tract painting.” Made using rollers and masking tape and an assortment of consumer house paints, the extremely generic works have the appearance of a low-rent living room manufactured by the cheapest minimum-wage workers. Halley’s condo aesthetic also incorporates a textured paint additive called Roll-a-Tex. “When I wanted to make the geometry feel architectural,” says Halley, “I was lucky to find the Roll-a-Tex powder.”