With all respect to New Yorker writer Connie Bruck, there's very little in this week's lengthy profile of the L.A. billionaire that hasn't been reported zillions of times before (New Yorker profiles are not usually aimed at people who are in the least bit familiar with the subject). But there are a few tasty morsels scattered throughout the piece, not the least of which is Mrs. Broad, who seldom is made available for interviews.
Edye plainly has strong feelings for art; showing me around their house, in a Brentwood canyon--a stucco-and-glass building with soaring ceilings and curves that are faintly reminiscent of Gehry's work--she paused before two giant paintings by Chuck Close, enraptured by works she has looked at countless times. Edye is warm, spontaneous, funny, thoughtful, and almost universally liked--in many ways, her husband's opposite. (Once, when Eli was castigated for being abusive, he said, "You want nice, call Edye!") She differs with Eli, but mostly does not prevail; at times, she has tried to dissuade her husband from attaching their name to every donation, but, she says, "I lost that battle."
Soon after the Broads moved to Los Angeles, Edye discovered the galleries on La Cienega Boulevard, and visiting them became her favorite solitary pursuit. She bought a Braque print, and then a Lautrec poster. "I wanted to buy the Andy Warhol soup can and hang it in my kitchen," Edye told me. "But I thought, If I come home having spent a hundred dollars on a painting of a soup can, Eli will have me committed!"
Eli showed little interest in the prints that Edye bought, except to ask how much they had cost. His initiation into collecting came through Taft Schreiber, a vice-president of MCA-Universal and a great collector of twentieth-century European and American art. In the early seventies, Schreiber, a major Republican donor, wanted to enlist Broad for the G.O.P. Though Broad was a Democrat, he was flattered by the attention, and he was awed by the art in Schreiber's house--pieces by Giacometti, Pollock, and de Kooning. They began to talk about collecting, and Schreiber referred him to dealers in New York. Broad saw that art brought entrée into a different kind of social life--one in which, travelling to any city in the world, he could have connections to artists, collectors, and dealers. "When you've got the big house, and you're driving a Jaguar, what differentiates you from every asshole dentist in the Valley?" Shelley De Angelus, who worked for Broad as his curator in the eighties and nineties, said. "Art was a way for Eli to distinguish himself."
Of course, what Eli Broad profile would be complete without the requisite snipes at the philanthropist for his insistent and often uncharitable ways.
Fred Nicholas, an attorney and a builder who worked for MOCA pro bono for many years, and who later became its chairman, also clashed with Broad. "Eli pushed people around, and he was so demanding--you had to report to him, come to his office," he said. "In all those years, I never once got a 'Thank you' or a 'Good job.' I said to Edye, 'He treats me like I work for him, and I resent it.' She said, 'He treats everyone that way.' "
The piece s not yet available online.