LOS ANGELES (AP) - Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad said Tuesday he's hit on a failsafe way to expose the most people possible to his collection of priceless contemporary art: He's going to let everybody in for free to the $140 million museum he's building in downtown Los Angeles.
Broad made the announcement during a hard-hat tour of the block-long, three-story building that is going up next door to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. To be called The Broad, it is scheduled to open toward the end of next year.
"Art is very inspirational," the philanthropist and passionate collector told The Associated Press during a brief interview before Tuesday's tour. "Art helps people be more creative in their thinking."
The new museum, meanwhile, continues a Broad-led transformation of a once-rundown neighborhood just south of City Hall. The area has seen a large park and numerous new and refurbished upscale residences and restaurants in recent years, as well as the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall, which Broad also helped get built.
"I've always believed that every city needs a vibrant center, and it occurred to me 50 years ago when we came here that Los Angeles was missing a vibrant center," the 80-year-old Michigan native said of his adopted hometown.
The philanthropist, whose wealth is estimated by Forbes at $6.9 billion, made a fortune in real estate as co-founder of homebuilder Kaufman & Broad and later as founder of the investment firm SunAmerica.
After selling the latter for $18 billion in 1998 he turned his interests largely to philanthropy, focusing on art, education and other areas.
He was the founding director, and in recent years has been the financial savior, of the city's Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located directly across the street from his new museum. When MOCA was in danger of going under five years ago, Broad bailed it out with $30 million.
With his own impressive contemporary art collection to be located just across the street, there has been some concern MOCA will be overshadowed, but Broad dismissed that.
"The people who are attracted to here are also going to go to MOCA," he said. "MOCA's going to have the benefit of our large audience."
Also, while admission to The Broad will be free, the museum will occasionally charge for special programs, and MOCA members will get a break on the price.
Broad's collection includes nearly 2,000 pieces, among them multiple works by such heralded artists as Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein and others.
The building, designed by architect Elizabeth Diller, will all but be a work of art in itself, Broad said. It will feature a porous, concrete veil sheathed in glass that will provide both natural light and a view of some of the works from the street. Unlike at most museums, people will even get a glimpse of works not on display but housed in the vault, which will have portals that visitors can look through.
"It's beyond my satisfaction," Broad said with a smile when asked if he's satisfied with the building's progress. "It's everything we ever dreamed of."
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