On a college campus peppered with analogous brick buildings, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum stands alone.
The sleek $45 million structure, built in 2012, was designed by world-renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Since then it’s been described by some locals as the “spaceship,” “shark” or “the Mach 3 Razor.” The stainless steel building strays from conventional architecture as it was built with almost no 90 degree angles. Once you’re indoors, its sprawling windows fill the interior with an unexpected amount of natural light.
The unique 46,000-square-foot structure, nested in the heart of downtown East Lansing, is so futuristic it was chosen as one of the sets for the upcoming Batman v Superman film — yes, Ben Affleck was in attendance.
Beyond its otherworldly facade, the Broad is known for its ever-changing exhibitions of contemporary art from around the world. It’s also a hive of music, culture and special events. Its permanent collection, inherited from the Kresge Art Museum, houses historically prominent works alongside modern pieces.
Revue chatted with Whitney Stoepel, the museum’s director of public relations — here’s what she had to say.
How does the Broad fit into the Michigan art scene?
I think that if you wanted to do a Michigan art tour, you would go to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Broad Art Museum and then end the tour in Grand Rapids at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. I don’t think people realize that we’re on that trail now of world class art. I think that we fill that gap, we have contemporary work, but it’s not as edgy or emerging as MOCAD or UICA. I think we’re filling the gap between MOCAD and the DIA.
After the Broad was first built, some locals were upset with the innovative design of the building, why do you think they were not happy?
I know it gets a lot of flak or side eyes because it’s a crazy looking building but it’s really avant-garde. And there are a lot of buildings throughout history, like the Eiffel tower or the Guggenheim, that people found shocking when they first went up. Part of what makes this so exciting is that it divides people. And that’s what good art does really. It rises something up in people that makes them excited or makes them argue and debate.
At least it’s hard to miss as you’re driving down Grand River Avenue, right?
When I’m telling people about it, regardless of what they call it, it’s hard to miss. You can’t say that about any other building except maybe the capital here. But what really surprises people is that it looks kind of ominous and intimidating from the outside, then you come in and it’s this beautiful, light-filled space with giant ceilings.
How has the Broad impacted Mid-Michigan?
I think that people are impressed and excited that they have this architectural gem in their town. It makes it a destination, for reasons other than what MSU is typically famous for like sports or agriculture. It’s another reason for people to come to East Lansing. I did; I moved here.