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Preview of the Broad's first show

I've seen a lot of the Broad collection over the years and this part of the review sums up some of my feelings about his opening of this monument to himself (remembering that originally he had promised his collection to LACMA:

Dead ahead off the escalator, Koons' big, multicolored flower sculpture is laid out at the public's feet — a fond welcome offering. Machined in stainless steel, these giant tulips, pristine and perfected, will never wilt, unlike nature's fragile kind.

They're beyond death. Koons flips the traditional role still-life flowers play, symbolizing mortality.

He further invokes the legendary tulip mania of 17th century Holland. The era also marks the art market's modern emergence. Paintings and tulip bulbs became mediums of fevered commercial exchange.

"Tulips" tells us something we don't always want to hear. The prospect of immortality, however vain, can be vested in precincts of incalculable wealth and extraordinary power. Like pyramids, say. Or the Broad.

The sculpture's witty placement underscores the narrowness of the collection. It's mainly rich in blue-chip art, defined by market value decided through consistent years of sales and confirmed at auction.

The market, subject to commercial limitations, is hardly infallible. It leaves a lot out. That's why the show's "sweep" feels choppy, and why about 80% of the 92 artists featured in the collection's new catalog are male, which the art market favors.

It's also why the show stresses art from New York and Europe, where art's primary trading floors are located, but not Los Angeles, where the collection was assembled. Ironically, in "Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell," his cheeky 1966-68 sign painting, L.A.'s John Baldessari gives the sardonic lowdown. "Paintings with cows and hens collect dust," it declares, "while bulls and roosters sell."

Markets always distinguish between what's salable and what's not, but they can't calculate quality.