EAST LANSING, Mich. - Long a subject of fascination for passers-by, the futuristic Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University is itself a contemporary work of art.
With its angular facade of pleated stainless steel and glass, the 46,000-square-foot structure dubbed "the spaceship" by students and visitors alike sits in stark contrast to the red brick, Collegiate Gothic-style buildings that surround it at the East Lansing campus.
The look of the Broad (pronounced BROHD) is the brainchild of Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born, Pritzker Prize-winning architect who designed the aquatic centre for the London Olympics and currently is at work on dozens of projects around the world.
While the $40 million building features Hadid's unique imprint, it owes its very existence to its namesake benefactors.
Eli Broad, a Los Angeles billionaire and Michigan State graduate, and his wife, Edythe, have given millions to fund art museums and exhibitions in southern California.
But when he was approached a number of years ago by Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon about the idea of expanding the campus' Kresge Art Museum, Eli Broad said he "encouraged (Simon) to think about something bigger."
The Broads made a commitment of $26 million (later increased to $28 million), Simon found the land along Grand River and a design competition began, resulting in the selection of Hadid's firm.
Five years later, the Broad MSU became a reality this past weekend when it was formally dedicated and opened its doors to the public for the first time.
The three-level structure includes gallery space for special exhibitions, modern and contemporary art, new media, photography and works on paper. Other features include an education wing, a works on paper study centre, shop and café. Adjacent to the museum is an outdoor sculpture garden and a pedestrian plaza.
The Broad inherited a 7,500-piece art collection from the Kresge Art Museum, including works from pre-Columbian, Greek and Roman eras through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but the art on display will be "largely contemporary," said director Michael Rush.
The historic art collection provides context for the newer works, providing for "dialogues between the contemporary and the very ancient," Rush said. "We're able now ... to examine the meaning of art throughout the centuries."
The inaugural exhibitions and displays include works from Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and others.
Particularly striking is an installation by Chinese-born artist Chen Qiulin that features half a dozen papier-mâché bodies suspended by wires, some of which slowly spin in a circular motion, and "Red Factor," a Buckminster Fuller-inspired parachute sculpture from Inigo Manglano-Ovalle that is suspended by cable in the 32-feet-high portion of a northwest gallery on the first floor.
Broad calls the museum "an architectural masterpiece that will propel this university and this region far into the future." An economic study predicted the museum will attract up to 150,000 visitors from around the world and pump millions of dollars into the regional economy every year.
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If You Go ...
BROAD ART MUSEUM: 547 East Circle Drive , East Lansing, Mich., http://broadmuseum.msu.edu or 517-884-3900. Closed Monday. Open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday from noon to 9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.