(PREVIEW) The Broad: or, How I Learned to Stop Caring and Hate Modern Art

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Prior to the pandemic, I was working at The Broad, a very popular art museum on Grand Avenue in Downtown. I had been working there for just over two years when covid shut everything down, eventually leading to the entire Visitor Services staff being laid off. But I was quite happy to go, as the job had definitely gotten old by that point.

If you’ve ever visited The Broad, you’ve certainly interacted with the Visitor Services staff. They dress all in black with a red lanyard and they do various things like issue you tickets, check your bags, give you directions, answer questions about the museum, tell you not to touch the artwork, and try to patiently explain for the fiftieth time that day that there isn’t any room left to sign up for Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.

As service work goes, I’ve certainly had worse jobs. There were some aspects of working at The Broad that were even fun. You got free admission to every other museum in town, giving travel advice to visitors was quite rewarding, and many of the people who worked there were very creative and fun to be around. But service work is service work: it doesn’t stay rewarding for long, and eventually you want to escape the doldrums of telling people the exact same thing over and over again. Turnover was pretty high.

But there were some things that were very revealing about working at The Broad. For one, it introduced me to the world of modern art, and subsequently made me more skeptical and critical towards the whole enterprise. And two, it made me far too familiar with the strange architecture and hypnotic geometry of the museum, and the bizarre effect it has upon all who enter.

Let me briefly describe a typical visit to The Broad. After you’ve parked your car or walked from the Metro station, you emerge onto Grand Avenue and get in the long line that leads to the front door. The exterior of the building resembles a giant white honeycomb, and if you approach it from across the street you’ll see the vacant eye of the “Oculus,” a giant window—an absence, really—in the middle of the façade facing Grand Avenue. Once you finally get your ticket, you enter the cavernous lobby—and I do mean cavernous. The grey, concrete ceiling and inner wall of the lobby curves and undulates like an organic form. The first floor galleries are tucked away to one side, hidden out of sight (much to the confusion of visitors trying to find the temporary exhibitions), while a long escalator carries you through a long, dimly lit tunnel to the main galleries on the top floor.

This is a preview of an exclusive Patreon post. You can read the rest of the post by subscribing to our Patreon.

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