What's drawing millennials to downtown L.A.'s Broad museum


The line is long and chatty, thick with restless, tattooed twentysomethings. A food truck dispenses vegan ice cream to the selfie-snapping crowd while a young man, with a bushy beard and glasses, reads beat generation poetry beneath an olive tree. The scene is outside downtown L.A.'s Broad museum. Since opening six months ago, it has attracted a decidedly youthful crowd.

The average visitor age is 32 — a full 14 years younger than the national average for art museum attendance in the U.S., according to the National Endowment for the Arts' most recent study.

The collection of postwar and contemporary art assembled by genteel, octogenarian philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad has, out of the gate, won over millennials.

The Broad's appeal to young people starts with colorful edgy art, such as Jeff Koons' glaring, gold-hued sculpture of Michael Jackson and his chimp, Bubbles, and Takashi Murakami's psychedelic-looking, dancing mushrooms. The museum is also located downtown, increasingly an entertainment and nightlife hub. And it's free.

Young people — munching on hot dogs in line, touring the galleries and gathering on the grassy lawn outside — say they were drawn by the museum's reputation as anything but stuffy.

Instead of security guards, the Broad has "visitor service associates" who roam the galleries and are happy to chat about the art as well as to point people to the nearest restroom. And instead of centuries-old paintings, there are the bold color blocks in Ellsworth Kelly's "Green Blue Red."

"I identify more with pop art than other types of art," says pink-haired Marisol Rodriguez, 28, visiting from Mexico City. "It's just fun."

Then there's the fact that timed tickets to the Broad are sold out months ahead of time. Young people such as Rodriguez seem to be more willing to wait hours in line than their elders.

"I don't mind waiting, even one hour, because it's worth it," Rodriguez says, eyeballing the line unfazed. "And maybe I can find some cool people in line to talk to."

Indeed, the standby line — typically a 45-minute wait on weekdays, twice that on weekends — is a bustling social scene, with spirited attendees exchanging snacks, gossip and cellphone numbers with new friends.

Learn more at latimes.com