The Philanthropist and entrepreneur Eli Broad, who co-founded with his wife Edye the contemporary art museum, The Broad in LA has died age 87.
“Eli saw the arts as a way to strive to build a better world for all. He was a fiercely committed civic leader, and his tenacity and advocacy for the arts indelibly changed Los Angeles. He will long be remembered for his unmatched generosity in sharing the arts passionately and widely,” said Joanne Heyler, Founding Director of The Broad.
In 1963, the Broads moved to Los Angeles, which became their adopted hometown and the central focus of much of their philanthropy and civic activism. Since moving to Los Angeles, the Broads have played two leading roles in making contemporary art and world-class architecture essential to life in the city for residents and visitors. Over his lifetime, Broad and his wife Edye, have given so much to the city of Los Angeles including, The Broad, and The Broad Art Foundation along with a total of nearly $1 billion to the city’s arts and culture institutions, in addition to The Broad. Their support of these institutions ushered in a transformational era for the arts in Los Angeles.
Broad led multiple efforts that have made Los Angeles into a global arts and culture capital, including co-founding two different art museums on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and The Broad; spearheading the effort to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and playing a catalyzing role in developing the long-fallow Grand Avenue into a cultural centre drawing millions from the Los Angeles region and around the world.
A tireless civic champion during his life, whose philanthropic legacy also includes education and medicine, Broad had unmatched influence and impact on the arts in Los Angeles. A 2017 profile on Broad in The New York Times noted, “It is difficult to overstate Mr Broad’s importance to Los Angeles. His contributions to the city’s art and cultural world may well prove the most enduring legacy—particularly for Los Angeles’s now-thriving downtown.” It was in Los Angeles where the Broads first became interested in collecting art together. After moving to the city, Edye—whose lifelong love of art began in her childhood—began visiting L.A.’s growing constellation of galleries on her own and buying mainly works on paper. But Broad soon joined his wife in collecting art, a passion the couple shared for five decades of their 66-year marriage. “Edye was the first collector in our family, and I came along later—later being some fifty-odd years ago. She was my inspiration to collect art,” said Broad. A significant early acquisition was a Vincent Van Gogh drawing acquired in 1972. By the 1980s, however, the Broads had become immersed in contemporary art, believing that by collecting the art of our time, they could create a meaningful art collection and enjoy the innovations and thinking of living artists. Within the decade, Broad, along with other arts patrons in Los Angeles, helped create the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 1979.
As the founding chairman of MOCA until 1984, Broad played a critical role in establishing the museum. Broad negotiated the purchase of 80 abstract expressionist and pop works from Italian businessman and collector Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, who was known for being the first European collector of postwar American art and for amassing one of the world’s largest and premier collections of postwar American art. The 80 works that were purchased formed the core of MOCA’s renowned permanent collection.
Broad chose Grand Avenue for the home for the private museum he co-founded with Edye, The Broad. The Broads had spent nearly 50 years building one of the world’s most significant collections of postwar and contemporary art. They had always wanted to bring contemporary art to the broadest possible audience. In August 2010, Broad announced that they would build a new contemporary art museum to fulfil this philanthropic commitment—the first entirely new art institution built in Los Angeles in nearly 20 years. The Broad museum opened in September 2015, revitalizing and driving the area’s transformation into the cultural centre that Broad had envisioned, with millions of visitors coming from across the region and worldwide to enjoy the rich and lively arts and culture scene along Grand Avenue. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, The Broad houses approximately 2,000 works of postwar and contemporary art by artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Yayoi Kusama, Kerry James Marshall, Takashi Murakami, Kara Walker, and Cindy Sherman. General admission to The Broad is free, and the museum presents a dynamic schedule of exhibitions and public programs.
Photo: Creative commons Eli and Edith Broad by Jeremiah Garcia