My wife was the first art collector in the family, and I didn't become interested until around 1973. The first important artwork we bought was a Van Gogh drawing of two peasant houses in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Several years later, we moved into contemporary art. Once our walls were filled at home, we said, "What do we do?" We created an art foundation to assemble a public collection of contemporary artworks that would be available for loan to museums around the world.
We've collected a number of artists who were active in L.A. in the '60s, '70s and later. We were fortunate in being able to acquire Charles Ray's work in depth, buying some major works from Charles Saatchi many years ago. We purchased one of his first fashion-related pieces, All My Clothes, in which he took 16 photographs of himself wearing his entire wardrobe. We also bought two of his Plank Piece photographs from 1973, in which he used his own body as a sculpture, draping it over a plank — it was a bold move in the 1970s.
We are very interested in Ed Ruscha and have a large collection of his work, including his iconic Boss painting, which is simply the word "Boss" written in big, black letters on a brown background. We also have collected Sam Francis for many years — Sam worked in L.A. for most of his career — and we have some major examples of his abstract expressionist paintings from the '50s and '60s. We also have a '60s disk and a dot painting by Robert Irwin.
In the late 1970s, I got involved in creating MOCA. Los Angeles was one of about six North American cities that didn't have a modern and contemporary art museum, but we had this great community of artists who were internationally known, and great art schools. I got involved at first on the institutional side in 1979.
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MOCA opened up with great success. We ended up with 600 people who we called founders, which was a great achievement. MOCA helped to stimulate contemporary art in Los Angeles, and spurred LACMA to delve into it.
Through my connection to MOCA, I'm a foundation contributor to Pacific Standard Time, which I think will attract greater attention to the art of Southern California, especially throughout the world. I've become convinced that Los Angeles is going to become the next contemporary art capital — no other city has more contemporary gallery space than Los Angeles. We've come into our own, finally.
—As told to Sophie Duvernoy
Eli Broad is an L.A. philanthropist, entrepreneur and art collector. He is founding chairman and a life trustee of MOCA and founder with his wife, Edythe, of the Broad Art Foundation, which is constructing the Broad, a contemporary art museum on Grand Avenue.