Eli Broad at LACMA


The opening of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum was the art event of the millennium. Well, so far anyway. No, that wasn’t an earthquake rattling Chris Burden’s forest of streetlamps outside the Renzo Piano-designed addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art-no, that was just the paradigms shifting.


Strobes lit the night like heat lightning as stars of stage, screen, finance, and auction entered the new West Coast temple of hog wild aesthetic contemporaneity. The phenomenal Broad (sounds like “toad”) Museum is a crystalline temple to the new world of Meta-Pop Art, and on its brand-new walls was a boffo show enshrining the 21st century’s art elite, most of it from the famous collection of the man with his name on the building.

It seemed more than just a museum opening. It wasn’t just the grand skylit building with the Barbara Kruger elevator big enough to hold a Hummer or two. It wasn’t just the stellar collection, that begins with the Pop pantheon and ends with the a-Pop-theosis of Jeff Koons as king of the new art world. It wasn’t the gigawatts of Hollywood star power in attendance, with Dustin Hoffman, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Christina Aguilera, Michael York, Steve Martin, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cruise, Nicole Richie (whose dad entertained), Tony Bennett, Tom Ford, Anjelica Huston, Dennis Hopper, James Franco, James Spader, etc. . . . It wasn’t the host of blue-chippers present, from locals like John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Lari Pittman, to East Coasters like David Salle, Jack Pierson, Philip Taaffe, Cindy Sherman (squired by David Byrne), and Bill Viola, to Euro-shakers like Francesco Vezzoli, to the kings of the emerging Pacific Rim art scene, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons. It wasn’t even the thousand very important others in their tuxes and couture. No it was as if the magnetic poles had shifted. Something had happened to L.A. itself. A whole new crowd of angels has descended on the place and their aura was off the charts. At the postprandial moment of unveiling, a dramatically flailing rock band descended from the ceiling, thundering the ominous primal power chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” then ascended again as a whole side of the titanic tent that held the dinner suddenly levitated, revealing the museum! Someone said that the scene of the revelers marching toward the museum was right out of Jurassic Park, and it would have fit right in had colossal reptiles appeared behind the museum. Clearly a new era was upon us by the La Brea Tar Pits. . . .

Was it possible that a polar shift had occurred? Could it be that the Art World had taken a giant step toward the sunset? New York had ruled the roost for a half century. But the city that gave us abstract expressionism and Pop, hard-edge and conceptual art, neo-geo and postmodernism, had changed. All the artists’ lofts are now occupied by arbitrage movers and hedge-fund shakers. The artists have scattered to Brooklyn and beyond. Only the art stars still work in Manhattan. But here in the land of sun and surf, a new generation of artists is rising up. Artists can actually afford to live in L.A. And now the Hollywood crowd is beginning to understand art. It looks great and you can’t argue with its numbers. And seeing that shiny immaculate Koons stuff here, it just looked so perfectly right in this cradle of dreams. And the well-hung Cindy Sherman room. So perfectly Sunset Boulevard. Not to mention the mind-blowing capitalist revolution of Murakami showing across town.

Koons and Murakami . . . looking at the former’s dominant installation at the Broad (with Warhol tucked off to his side) and the latter’s tour de force, complete with Louis Vuitton store, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, all I could think of was that Warhol’s prophesy of Business Art had finally happened. Here. Not in New York or Paris but here in Hollywoodland. And if Andy were here, I know just how he’d feel. He would be so purple with jealousy that he would have to take a pill. How many people do Koons and Murakami employ at their “factories?” How many? How much do those LVs sell for?

I could only think that if Andy were here, he would be driving home to his mansion in Bel Air fuming, trying to figure out how to out-gross Koons and Murakami, offering Marc Jacobs the cover of Interview, and planning to look at industrial properties in the Valley out by Yahoo. Maybe he could rent a used mall.