Joanne Heyler is founding director of the Broad and a member of the museum’s board of directors. In addition to her role at the Broad, she serves as the director and chief curator of the Broad Art Foundation, which was created in 1984 as a pioneering lending library dedicated to increasing public access to contemporary art through an enterprising loan program and is now headquartered at the Broad.
Deborah McLeod joined Gagosian as director of the Beverly Hills outpost in December 2005. In 2009, she oversaw the Richard Meier–designed expansion of the Beverly Hills gallery, doubling the footprint and adding an outdoor exhibition space. With an emphasis on both primary and secondary market sales, she oversees gallery operations, the exhibition program, and client service. She works closely with gallery artists Frank Gehry, Thomas Houseago, and the Chris Burden Estate.
Deborah McLeodJoanne, we are all looking forward with immense anticipation to the opening of the Broad. You hosted a sneak peak of the museum in February of this year with only light and sound art—an opportunity to just feel the space and the light. It was universally loved; in fact I only heard positive comments from people who visited. That’s so unusual! What is it about the building that is so universally appealing?
Joanne HeylerWe were excited to finally be able to let the public into the museum at our Sky-lit event in February. It’s so rare that the public is able to see a space when it really is just pure architecture—and under construction! We planned that event around a specific moment in our construction where the third-floor gallery space was complete but the art walls had yet to go up. The space is 35,000 square feet with 23-foot-high ceilings and it is completely column-free. It was wonderful to have visitors be able to experience the expansiveness of that space and the beautiful light that comes through the skylight-covered ceiling. This building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, really is a sculpture in itself. I think visitors are intrigued by it because it is both neutral and dramatic. It’s an incredibly thoughtful structure—you really can look at it and move through it for hours and continue to discover new and beautiful architectural moments.
DMYou have been working on the building project for more than five years, as you selected the architect and the site in August of 2010. What were some of the most interesting or personally gratifying moments from the process over the past five years?
JHThere have truly been countless gratifying moments in this process over the last five years. A particularly meaningful moment happened in May when the first work of art—Robert Therrien’s Under the Table—was moved into the museum. Up till then, this had really been a building to me. When that piece was unloaded from an eighteen-wheeler truck on our loading dock, that was the moment that the Broad changed from a building to a museum. In the weeks after that delivery, of course, we’ve installed many more works from the Broad collection in the museum galleries and in a more comprehensive way than has ever been possible before. It’s a discovery process for me to work with the collection this way. A lot of memories of helping to build this collection and also appreciation for all the great works that came into the collection before I was involved—above all, the consistent dedication of the Broads to collecting and to artists.
DMHow will your day-to-day routine change with the unveiling?
JH After we open our doors to the public on September 20, we will be welcoming, at times, thousands of visitors a day. The Broad Art Foundation has been lending Broad-owned works to public museums for over three decades, so serving a public purpose is nothing new, but serving the public directly is new. It is a tremendous responsibility. My staff and I have been preparing for years, and we are excited and motivated by the keen interest we already feel from the public. I went to a meeting at the downtown library a few blocks away, not long ago, and was actually stopped twice on the street by people who recognized me as the director of the museum. When I applied for my TSA precheck clearance at LAX a few months ago, the homeland security officer knew about the museum, and asked when it was going to open. These experiences have been completely unexpected and great. It’s exciting to be contributing to the already vital contemporary art scene in LA.
DMThe collection will really get to stretch its legs and air out in this 120,000-square-foot space. This is a large increase from the Foundation building in Santa Monica. Do you intend to make exhibitions on some floors, and keep a rotation of the permanent collection on view?
JH When we open in September, all the museum’s galleries will show the Broad collection in a roughly chronological installation. Next year, our first-floor gallery will become our main space for rotating exhibitions: approximately three per year. The third-floor gallery will continue to show the collection, but it will evolve as works are lent out and new works are added. There will always be new works for visitors to see from the collection.
DMThat gorgeous third floor is nearly an acre!
The “veil and vault” concept that is a central element to the building is quite dynamic and a very original concept for an art museum. How did the worldwide lending library inspire this part of the architecture?
JH Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed a building that embodies our history as a lending library. DS+R’s concept includes two major architectural gestures—the “veil” and the “vault”—and merges the two key programs of the building: public exhibition space and the storage that will support our extensive lending activities.
The heavy opaque mass of the vault is always in view—its carved underside shapes the lobby walls and ceiling, its center contains the collection storage areas, and its top surface is the floor of the third-floor galleries. DS+R made the vault the protagonist of our building, allowing visitors to move through, under, on top of, and around it during their visits. Also, rather than relegate storage to a back-of-house function, DS+R not only put it in the center of the building via the sculptural vault form, they also placed viewing windows at the two landings in our central stair that look straight into our painting storage room—straight into the heart of the “vault”—revealing a portion of our extensive collection in repose, awaiting display either in our galleries or out on loan: what Liz Diller calls a “pre-curated” state.
The vault is enveloped by the “veil,” the porous, honeycomb-like exterior structure that sits on top of the vault and provides filtered natural daylight, surrounding it like a shell.
DMWhat are some of the upcoming shows you can talk about?
JH The inaugural installation will be on view well into 2016 and will be a sweeping, chronological exhibition drawn exclusively from our collection, featuring approximately 250 artworks dating from the 1950s to the present. We’ve never been able to display our collection in this much depth before, and it is wonderful to be able to put together such a comprehensive exhibition. There will be monographic concentrations of works by artists the Broads have long collected, but this installation will also include some surprises and nuance, with many galleries combining artists and mediums in ways that we’ve never been able to bring together before.
From training scores of floor staff to creating entertaining audio guides to offering interesting engagement programming, I’ve tried to infuse every point of contact with the public with educational content, there for the taking.Joanne Heyler
DMThe Broad will be free. This is a great gift to the people of Los Angeles. Thank you! The Broads are very connected to supporting many important museums, especially in Los Angeles. How are these efforts different or how do they overlap with creating their own museum?
JHEli has long said that Los Angeles is, along with Paris, New York, and London, a great cultural capital. Ten or twenty years ago, I think some people couldn’t see it that way, but now I constantly hear from many previous doubters that you can’t follow visual art and not come regularly to LA to see what is happening.
So, the Broads have always had this vision for LA, and their support for its many cultural organizations ties into that vision and helped make it a reality. Starting with their efforts to help found MOCA back in the late ’70s, to LACMA, to major efforts to complete the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall, to the Arts High School designed by Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, they’ve made major things happen here. We are, right now, very occupied with launching our museum, but this won’t be the end of the Broads’ support for other LA institutions.
DMMr. Broad, who did not get where he is by committee, looks to you for your expertise, empowers you with this program, and clearly has the utmost respect for you. Do you have or want the opportunity to inject any personal agendas? Such as adding certain artists to the collections, maybe more women?
JHThere are definitely more women in the collection now. In just the past few years, we’ve added works by Yayoi Kusama, Julie Mehretu, Goshka Macuga, to name a few. But there have always been profoundly important feminist statements at the heart of the collection since the 1980s, in the work of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, among others.
I also love that we have brought the first piece of major public architecture in Los Angeles designed by a woman-led firm: Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
While I would not call it a personal “agenda” per se, I’ve taken on Eli’s populist stance on museums and how they serve the public, in my own way. Inclusion, and encouraging a welcoming, meaningful experience for our museum visitors, is something I always have in mind as we prepare the museum. From training scores of floor staff to creating entertaining audio guides to offering interesting engagement programming, I’ve tried to infuse every point of contact with the public with educational content, there for the taking.
DMFor as long as I can remember, people have been saying that Downtown was about to happen—to come alive as a cultural hub and be where it’s at. But for twenty-five years, I have only approached downtown on a surgical-strike basis! I’m in and out for a Lakers game, a concert at Disney Hall, or for a MOCA opening. I calculate traffic and only drive during certain hours. Can this change?
JHPlease allow me to make you a restaurant reservation to precede or follow your Lakers game or trip to the opera! There are countless top-notch restaurants in Downtown LA now, and more all the time. The residential population is growing, fast. I spend the last part of my commute dodging construction barriers fencing in rental housing projects, and cranes dot the skyline. There is so much happening in Downtown LA, and the pace only seems to accelerate. Outside of the burgeoning art scene, the food landscape in Downtown can keep you here for a weekend on its own. We hope that visitors to the Broad park once; visit the museum; have lunch at Otium, the restaurant on our plaza; and take a trip to MOCA. It is difficult to not spend a full day in Downtown LA these days. And personally, having been based almost my entire life in LA, I can tell you that this boom period feels very different from prior boomlets of Downtown development in the ’80s and earlier. There is now more infrastructure and, most importantly, the MTA light rail and subway, all of which is centered on Downtown. LA is transforming.
DMI strongly feel that, in order for a block to become a neighborhood, it needs lots of street-level shops and homey cafes to make it a walking district. Giant buildings one after the other with subterranean parking do not make a neighborhood! Will the Broad address this?
JHThe architecture of the Broad was designed specifically to address our section of Grand Avenue, which is challenged by the way the developers of the ’60s and ’70s decided to deal with the hilly topography—with decking and plinths on which some of our neighboring buildings stand, divorced from street level. Liz Diller deliberately set our museum’s ground floor at sidewalk level, to engage the street. She also designed the veil to lift at its corners to welcome visitors into the museum’s lobby, and our shop is right at one of these corners. We also added an open plaza to our project, designed by DS+R, right next to the museum, which features a grove of fantastical-looking hundred-year-old Barouni olive trees and ample grass space for relaxing and picnicking. Besides being a nice addition of open green space for the public to enjoy, our plaza will connect pedestrians with Grand Avenue from a Metro stop on Hope Street, planned for 2020. We also widened the sidewalk in front of our museum, to help continue the promenade for pedestrians that starts at Disney Hall. A new restaurant just opened at street level in the apartment building next to the museum and Otium will join it in the fall.
DMThe Broad Foundation has offered great public programs, for instance the “Un-private Collection” talk series, which brought artists from the collection into public conversations with recognized cultural leaders. Will there be a continuation of these public events? Are there any upcoming programs that you are particularly excited about?
JHWe are developing the public programming at the Broad to continue in the spirit of the “Un-Private Collection” series—which was about bringing artists from our collection together with leading voices in other artistic fields. At the museum, we will hold more “Un-Private Collection” talks, but we will also offer performance, music, and film. All of this is aimed at offering to the public new and accessible avenues to explore our collection. Our programming will relate directly to artists and works in the collection and is designed so visitors can dig deeper into its themes. The programming season will begin with a number of special series kicking off in October and November 2015.
I am inspired by the Broads and the integrity of their philanthropic goals, as well as the stupendous dedication they have sustained, over many decades, to artists, to the cultural life of LA, and to all the ways that they give back in education and scientific research.Joanne Heyler
DMI can’t wait for the train slated to be transporting riders from the beach to Downtown in about five years from now. The Regional Connector will stop behind your building, right?
JH Yes—the construction for the new Metro stop behind our museum is just about to start and is scheduled to open in 2020. Not only is this station going to make the Broad and all of the arts and cultural organizations on Grand Avenue more accessible, but it also means that arts and culture seekers will be able to ride one train to get from Grand Avenue to LA’s other arts hub on Miracle Mile.
DMUnder Michael Govan’s leadership, LACMA has become a vibrant city center with live music, lectures, food on the plaza, and kids running through Chris Burden’s Urban Light and taking selfies under Levitated Mass. Does the Broad want to be this type of warm and welcoming host to the community?
JHEspecially with our free general admission, we hope that the public will use the museum as a gathering place and a place for exploration. We will have family weekends and a robust mobile app that includes audio guides, and many, many other programs. We will work in concert with the new restaurant Otium to incorporate food and food-related education into the experiences available to our visitors. Eventually, we hope to coordinate more with all our institutional neighbors on Grand, and really create more of a sense of place. We can’t wait to see how the public will use our museum and plaza.
DMYou never stop. You are the consummate professional. You are managing the museum, the collection, the construction, and Mr. B along with raising a young family. Do you ever arrive at work with your skirt on backwards? What’s your secret?
JHYou are very kindly overlooking the deadline extensions I’ve requested for this interview when you say that! I have had my share of numbskull moments for sure, and I am not sure what I would do without my children’s dedicated dad, Craig. I am also glad that these experiences are coming together when I am mature—midlife—there, I said it! It helps to have some serious life experience under your belt before a phase like I am in now of mega responsibilities to my family, my work, and now, through the museum, to the larger community. But at the risk of sounding corny, I am inspired and challenged, and when that is true, you can accomplish a lot. I know how lucky I am. I am inspired by the Broads and the integrity of their philanthropic goals, as well as the stupendous dedication they have sustained, over many decades, to artists, to the cultural life of LA, and to all the ways that they give back in education and scientific research. Also, I am inspired by the quality and dedication of the staff members I have had the pleasure to hire over the past five years or so. Our museum team is incredible, a group of super talented, good humored, and smart people I am really proud to have as colleagues.
People sometimes say to me that I am having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I always think to myself that, actually, not that many lifetimes include what I am doing now—helping to open a brand-new museum in an architecturally standout building, in the most exciting neighborhood of LA, with a stellar collection, offered to the public as a true gift from the Broads. It’s a pinnacle moment.