Vault on View: The Broad's Unique Peek

The new downtown museum provides guests a look behind the art action.

When we go anywhere nowadays we often expect to see more of the process that goes into the final product we're seeking, whatever that final product happens to be.

It's an age, in short, when the concept of "behind the scenes" is now more "in front of the scenes" than it has ever been, from the Starbucks latte made before our eyes to the pepperoni pie coming together feet away from where we're queued at the pizza shop. 

But the peek-deeper movement is going far further than the local open-kitchen eatery, though, thanks to The Broad's on-view vault.

The Grand Avenue-based contemporary art museum, slated for opening on September 20, will display paintings and other works in the typical gallery style, as museums do; multiple floors filled with pieces by artists like Barbara Kruger and Takashi Murakami.

The "open kitchen" format comes in the form of the vault, a space that can be viewed via "a winding central stair that offers glimpses into the vast holdings of the collection." The Broad, which was founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, never intended to "relegate the storage to secondary status."

In short? Just because an artwork isn't on officially view doesn't mean it cannot be viewed.


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It's an idea that pairs rather nicely with The Broad's most striking exterior feature, the "porous, honeycomb-like" outer structure being called "the veil." The exterior veil lifts at the edges to allow the viewer in, and the viewable vault "under" the veil extends the peek-deeper invitation. 

The LA Times, in pondering the vault, observes that observers will see staff members "carrying on as usual, carting objects in and out as needed."

We get glimpses of such activities at other businesses we patronize -- the bustle behind the desk at the dentist's office, and, yes, food preparation at various eateries -- but watching a world-class museum go about its day-to-day and sometimes desultory duties is a fresh notion.

Think of some of the most traditional cultural institutions you've visited, and try to conjure a memory of seeing what happened off the gallery floor. Did you see anything, apart from, perhaps, the occasional sculpture receiving a quick dusting or an "employees only" door opening to an off-limits passage?

The Broad promised some wave-makery in the art world, and its veil and vault concept, even prior to opening, is providing just that. But will you want to stand and peep into the vault for your entire visit, or at least the bulk of it?

As behind-the-scenes buffs know, it can be hard to tear one's self away from the inner machinations of a major undertaking. And The Broad's off-floor doings are sure to as interesting as the artworks upon its walls.

Photo (bottom): The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles; photo by Benny Chan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

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