The Broad is a free museum in downtown Los Angeles, California with an impressive collection of contemporary art, including conceptual art. It’s an impressive museum that cost $140 million to build only a couple of years ago. This review of the Broad offers photos from inside its galleries, tips for visiting, and pros and cons of the Broad as compared to other art museums in L.A.
Directly adjacent to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad is located on Grand Ave in DTLA. The contemporary art museum was funded by philanthropist Eli and Edythe Broad, and it houses a rotating collection of over 2,000 post-war works, with roughly 250 art pieces being displayed at a time. Because of its relatively modest size, the Broad is fairly approachable, and a satisfying visit here can be completed in under 2 hours.
This review of the Broad is perhaps the best case to be made for not putting complete faith into online reviews. That’s a hard sentence to type as a blogger who focuses pretty heavily on reviews, but I think it’s the truth. The reason I say this is because I loved the Broad, despite being pretty tepid on LACMA. Objectively, this does not make a ton of sense…
The Broad and LACMA both focus on contemporary art. That’s pretty much the sole focus of the Broad, whereas it’s the primary–but not sole–type of galleries in LACMA. I’ll readily admit that contemporary art (particularly conceptual art) is not my favorite style. Just a matter of personal preference.
It thus stands to reason that I’d prefer LACMA. After all, the Broad essentially highlights this subset of LACMA that is not particularly appealing to me. Yet, I far preferred the Broad.
In trying to reconcile this inconsistency, I think it comes down to the presentation at the Broad for me. From the beautiful new building–both outside and in–to the clean and well-maintained galleries, the Broad felt nicer and was more inviting. I also appreciated the presentation of the pieces, and usually there was ample commentary about each piece on nearby placards.
Largely, I found these placards to be engaging and thought-provoking. Even the pieces that did not necessarily appeal to me on an aesthetic level (of which there were many) challenged me. I think this makes for compelling art–the more thought provoking, the better.
On a personal level, the exhibits also never lost me. I find a lot of contemporary art (and commentary on it) pretentious and overwrought. Yet, I never found any of the exhibits or the commentary on them at the Broad to be eye roll-inducing, which did occur for me from time to time at LACMA.
I’m hardly an art scholar, so take my opinions here for exactly what they’re worth (which is more or less nothing).
There’s also the fact that the Broad is significantly smaller than LACMA, which makes it more approachable. It’s easier to see and digest everything without being overwhelmed or growing fatigued.
In fairness to LACMA, it would be pretty easy to focus on only a couple of galleries there–it’s not really fair to penalize a museum for offering more.
However, as a practical matter, I think it is natural (if not fair) to be overwhelmed by particularly large museums that have sprawling layouts and numerous galleries.
Whether that’s because you’re a completionist who wants to see as much as possible (that’s me), or the size and layout makes exploring the various exhibits difficult, I think this can be true for a lot of people.
In any event, my goal here is to be straightforward with this review. While I think I have plausible bases for preferring the Broad to LACMA, I can recognize that this might not be entirely grounded in logic.
To quote the Great Gonzo (err…Charles Dickens), the real reason may be an “undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” That is to say, numerous unaccounted-for externalities could come into play in why I enjoyed my experience at the Broad more than LACMA, from mood to hunger to who knows what else.
In terms of tips, there are a few things to know about the Broad. Most important is the ticketing system. While admission to the Broad is completely free, there are both reserved and standby tickets available. You can book tickets for the next month through the museum’s website at the beginning of each month starting at noon PST. (For example, tickets for the entire month of November are available October 1 at noon.)
I recall reading about long waits at the Broad when it first opened a couple of years ago, but outside of weekends and school breaks, those are not really the case any longer. (So if you see another site mentioning 90+ minute waits, check the date of the post. The initial rush to see this “new” museum has subsided.)
We visited in late afternoon on a Friday on a day when there was an 8 p.m. event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Based upon our timing, this would have been a near-peak time for crowds, and there was absolutely no standby line. While I cannot promise this will always be the case (it likely won’t during Spring Break or summer weekends), it should give you an idea of the new normal for lines at the Broad.
Once inside, crowds were pretty moderate. From what I understand, this is always the case. The restricted entry system is utilized to keep crowds at a manageable level so as to not impinge upon the viewing experience of the art. I wouldn’t say the museum was uncrowded, but it was perfectly fine.
Now, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room installation (if you know people in Southern California, you’ve no doubt seen photos of this on Instagram) is a totally different story. Infinity Mirrored Room has extremely limited capacity, accommodating one visitor per minute. Infinity Mirrored Room requires a separate (also free) timed same-day reservation which ticket holders are able to reserve after arrival to the museum via an iPad kiosk in the lobby.
If you’re spending the day in DTLA and this exhibit is a must-see, we recommend going first thing in the morning to get a time for Infinity Mirrored Room later in the day, and then returning to the museum. Quite often, your time for the installation will be way later than you’d otherwise want to stay at the museum.
Alternatively, try showing up late. During our visit at the end of the day (~3 hours before closing), there were still tickets available for Infinity Mirrored Room right before closing.
The Broad mobile app (available for iPhone and Android) is exceptional, and will enhance your experience at the museum. Think of this as somewhat akin to a free audio guide offered by some museums. This app offers four different self-guided tours, each offering a different angle on the museum. (One is even narrated by LeVar Burton!)
Another thing to know is that if you bring a backpack, you’ll have to wear it on your chest throughout your entire visit to the Broad. If this seems unpleasant (and speaking from experience, it is), you can use the free bag/coat check in the lobby of the Broad.
Our final tip relates to parking. This is downtown Los Angeles, so of course it’s going to cost you. The current cost at the Board’s parking lot is $12 for 3 hours. That’s not awful, particularly considering that 3 hours should be enough time to see everything.
However, we’d recommend parking elsewhere. Not only will you pay less money, but you’ll get more time. There are several lots by City Hall and the Los Angeles Times building that charge $8-10 for the entire day. If you’re a tourist to DTLA, there’s a lot to see in the area. You really should not limit yourself to 3 hours.
At the very least, you’ll want to leave some time to eat. There are some exceptional restaurants within a short walk of the Broad, most notably Otium. Here’s a list of other good dining options nearby in DTLA.
Overall, I really enjoyed our visit to the Broad. It wouldn’t be among my top 10 things to do in Los Angeles, but it’d make the top 25. As mentioned above, I cannot fully account for why it was such a better experience for us (Sarah agreed with my take, for what it’s worth), but I know that I like what I like. (How astute, right?) Even if contemporary art is not your scene, the Broad is so convenient to other must-dos in downtown Los Angeles that I think it’s worth checking out, if even briefly. The price is right, and you never know how much you might enjoy it!
If you’re planning a California vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to do. For Los Angeles-centric trips, we’ve found the most useful guidebook to be The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas, which is written by locals (and we use it even as locals!). If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you visited the Broad? If so, what did you think of experience? If you’ve visited both the Broad and LACMA, which did you prefer? Any additional tips to add that we didn’t cover? Other recommendations in downtown Los Angeles? Would you visit the Broad again, or do you think it was a ‘one and done’? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!