Walk into any household in the world and you will most likely find collections of varying magnitude and category. Whether it be stamps, rubber ducks, sea shells or beer bottle tops, the human race has an innate tendency for collecting things. In the case of the Los Angeles based philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, their collection of post war and contemporary art accumulates to over 2000 works which are either displayed in a dedicated 50,000 square feet gallery space or stored in the second floor vault of The Broad Museum in Los Angeles. In February a group of UCSB students, including the AD&A Museum interns, visited The Broad and received a private tour led by Assistant Curator Sarah Loyer. Aside from the splendour of a gallery filled with some of the contemporary art world’s most influential works, our tour exemplified the idea that there is more to see in a gallery or museum than just the art works themselves. The guided tour of the exhibitions opened our ears and trained our eyes to the incessant dialogues between the works of art, chattering between themselves as we wove our way through the exhibition. Just as we don’t “look” at words, museums transform into a twinkling noise when they are listened to as books are meant to be read.
When Eli and Edythe Broad, in 1983, traded their treasured Vincent van Gogh pen and ink drawing, Cabanes a Saintes-Maries (1888), for Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled (1954), it signified a pivotal refinement of their collection towards a prolific dedication to contemporary art. All of the works displayed in The Broad are united not only by their influential reception, but equally due to an emphatically considered, personal decision. It is with these perpetual choices that the gallery exists as it does now. Each piece has been collected and curated in such an order as words are selected and formed into a sentence. The permanent collection housed on the second floor of The Broad includes works by Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons, three artists that represent separate decades of artistic progression spanning from the 1960s to 2000s extending from America to Germany. The Broad and indeed many museums transcend the function of simply containing artefacts and instead facilitate transatlantic conversations between different nations and diverging eras.
Take two works currently on view at The Broad: Andy Warhol’s Two Marilyns (1962) and Anselm Keifer’s Deutschlands Geisteshelden (1973). The two narratives represent worlds of difference in just over ten years. Keifer looks back on the former power of the German Third Reich, its previous prowess is represented by the past acquisition of looted artworks which now, envisioned in a hollow hall and inscribed with the names of artists and writers, stands empty. Warhol on the other hand tells a story that for him was well grounded in the present. Created a few weeks after the death of Marilyn Monroe, his silk screen prints document the parallel between the haze of declining fame and the deterioration of clarity from one print to the next. They stand not entirely in juxtaposition but share a common space in the lofty whitewashed walls of The Broad, two unparalleled worlds neither in collision nor contradiction.
A private collection of any magnitude offers an insight into the lives of the collectors. More relevantly however, is the chance to glimpse through windows into other eras. This is after all how art survives, it is kept, passed down through the decades undestroyed, collected. Institutions like The Broad, which also serves as a “lending library”, is also how art can continue chattering to each other, moving to new countries, greeting new neighbours and we as the collecting majority, must join the conversation.
-Brigitte Zheng, Communications Intern