I’m playing tourist for a day in my own city and it couldn’t feel any better. I even woke up happy for it, energized and focused. I have a reservation for The Broad, downtown, at 10AM. Because I’m neurotically early for things like this, I arrive around 9:25AM. But it gives me the luxury of taking a quick scout for parking and happily I find a lot 1 block south; $8 for the day, instead of the $14 advertised parking on the museum site. Already killing it. The early arrival’s next gift is the time I take to gaze at my favorite work of architecture in the city of Los Angeles, The Walt Disney Concert Hall. Curved metal, the physical manifestation of notes of music. You can see sound. Giant before you. Art impersonating a building. It never gets old for me.
With fifteen minutes to go until the museum opens, I take my place on line. Two lines snake against the building stealing some shade. One is for ticket holders and one much longer for standby. The Broad is free but small, and entry is not guaranteed without a reservation. Furthermore, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room is not even guaranteed with entry. A second reservation must be made once inside. But I am jumping ahead. Russians in front of me, loud talking tie-died Vermonters behind. My reservation confirmed by The Broad staff member with an iPhone, I dive into my book, pleasantly passing the time in another world. Usually I try to read the grandest thing I can. Great literature, that’s my thing; big stories with a love of language. Trying something a little different this time. I am reading The Dragon’s Path. I haven’t read a fantasy novel since I was young, but I’m in need of a little extra escapism, and I do so love Game of Thrones. It’s practically an obsession. Well 200 pages in I still can’t tell you the difference between a Tralgu and a Jasuru, or how a Timzinae looks different from a Firstblood. Or what the fuck I just said. But, it’s awfully fun and entertaining. The line starts to move and it’s time to put swords and dragons aside. The museum is opening.
The Broad is the private collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. Think more Scottish strong “O” sound, less 1950’s cabbie referring to a woman when you pronounce their name. Eli and Edythe have been collecting contemporary art for five decades, or so the flyer tells me. The museum was opened in the fall of 2015. The Broad boasts one of the largest collections of modern art in the world, nearly 2,000 plus works by over 200 artists. Not all are currently on display, but all supposedly housed inside. The collection continues to grow, alongside current artist’s installations, like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. And that is where I begin.
After admission to The Broad visitors can sign up at the kiosk for a reservation to the Infinity Mirrored Room. You will receive a text alerting you when your spot on line is coming up. Warning: entrance to the exhibit is not guaranteed with entrance to the museum. DO NOT GO TO THE BROAD AND MISS IT. Because I am in the first batch of visitors, I proceed directly to the line for Infinity Mirrors, skipping the latter steps. The attendant asks how many people in each party, I tell him I am solo. Each person, or small group enters alone. After a few minutes, it’s my turn. Once inside the door closes. The entire room is mirrors, 360 degrees around, ceiling and floor. When the door closes the seams almost disappear. LED lights pulse from light to dark and all around. You, the lights, the room, are reflected millions of times over. In darkness it stretches out, in brightness, a sci-fi kinda heaven. For a split second as the door was closing I wondered if the experience would be in any way frightening when in fact I found it the polar opposite. Expansive. Freeing. Exhilarating. Like bathing in the grand vastness of the space and possibility. It tastes like freedom. I held out my iPhone to snap photos (not looking) to have some kind of record, but not wanting to waste any time trying to get the right shot. The photos don’t do the experience justice. Like taking big breaths atop a mountain, my heart and mind swing wide open to enormity of infinite space and possibility. You know that opening moment when Julie Andrews spins on the lush green mountain as the camera cranes around and she sings “The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music”? It’s kinda like being her in that moment, but in space. When the door opened it was like something only possible in a cartoon, a door just swinging opening in space. I was shocked to realize how turned around I was, how small in fact the room itself was. Through the open door the expectant faces of the next visitors are starring back at me, curious to catch my face and a glimpse of what they were in for next. About 30 seconds; that’s how long I was in by myself. It’s a show stopper of an opening. I join the chorus of those before me, exiting the exhibit with a sense of awe. Afterwards, all I wanted to do was go back. Afterwards, I longed for infinity.
I wandered through the first floor exhibit, A Journey That Wasn’t. Various artists and mediums challenging your thoughts on time and assumptions. Next I rode the escalator up as it seemed to disappear into caverns shaped out of clay, to the third floor. The main collection. I’m treated to the works of some of the most influential modern artists including; Jean-Michael Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Herring and Andy Warhol; famous works I’ve never seen up close. They’re political,, playful, street, familiar, colorful, multi-media, confrontational, frightening, silly and provoking. As is my normal museum custom I move at a pace without rhyme. Sometimes I stare forever, sometimes I never break my stride, checking out works as I slide by. In one room, pain and darkness through the street graffiti work of Basquiat on one side is balanced by Keith Herring’s bright, bold playfulness on the other. Robert Therrien’s Under The Table instantly transports me to a time when I was little. It’s a giant set of table and chairs. You can walk under the table and feel what it might be like to be two feet tall. I LOVED it. It felt so whimsical, an opportunity to just feel like a little kid again. What a gift. Yes, there’s that modern art piece which is just a circle on a solid canvas that one sees and thinks “I can do that”. There’s new, aggressive, anti-Trump works. I wander through each room, genuinely sad when I’ve seen all there is to see. I circle back to a few favorites. The Broad isn’t very large. I see the whole collection in a little over an hour. It’s really the only bad thing I can say about the visit. On the way out I think about revisiting the Infinity Mirrored Room. The wait it time is now over an hour.
It takes a certain kind of man to grab a drink at 11:20 AM when he’s not even in the mood just for the sake of a blog entry that possibly only his mother will read. I am that hero. Otium is located on the plaza next to The Broad. The restaurant itself, a work of art. Impossibly chic; rustic meets high concept. It’s helmed by chef Timothy Hollingsworth. It’s mighty impressive to look at and I long to go back and enjoy a meal. But on this visit I peruse the wine list with my eye on a spot in their outdoor courtyard. “You like blended frozen drinks?”, is the only other bar patron’s aggressive overture to conversation. “No” I say, eyes back to the wine list. “You like whiskey?”. He seems to really want to strike up a conversation. Maybe it’s the bro-y vibe I get or perhaps I’ve become too polished at my own solitude, but I’m just not that interested. “I do like whiskey, but it’s a wine moment”. “I got to wait an hour for the Infinity thing”, he continues. I assure him it’s worth it. He goes on that the restaurant and the museum are owned by the same guy, (actually, couple). He points to the museum, “if you ever need a 150 million dollar write off, you do that”. “I’ll keep that in mind” I respond with a smile as I take my wine and head out the door. In the courtyard I sip the Ciro Picariello 2016, Greco di Tufo, (straw colored, acid, mineral, stone, white peach, honeydew, hint lavender) and wish it was colder. Otium may look eye popping, but the white wine is warm. It’s still a nice glass of vino, outside, on a perfectly temperate day. I soak in the ambiance and meditate on the art I’ve just seen. Half way through the glass of wine I turn back to my book and magical mystical lands. I might not have been in a drinking mood at the start but by the end of the glass I am wishing for another and could lounge around at Otium all day. Eventually I’ll probably even cave and spend money I don’t have on it’s fancy food. But I don’t. It’s a not a real vacation, just a stolen morning in my own Los Angeles backyard.