Friday, May 16, 2014

The Getty Villa and The Getty Center

This week I visited The Getty Villa and The Getty Center. The Getty Villa is a museum built by multi-millionaire Jean Paul Getty on his ranch property. A nearly exact replica of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy, which was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the Villa houses the art of ancient antiquity (Greece, Rome, Egypt). It opened in 1974. When Getty died in 1976, he left nearly all of his vast fortune to his museum trust. After several years of discussion and planning, the people in charge of the trust built The Getty Center, which opened to the public in 1997. The Center houses more contemporary art, from the 1500s to modern times. It also includes a research center. Both museums also have extensive grounds with beautiful gardens.

Admission is free at both the Villa and the Center, but parking at each cost $15. (I saw a sign at the Center parking garage that said the first hour is free but unless you're there to run an errand, you need to spend more than an hour there.) However, if you visit both in one day, you can pay $15 at the first one & ask their helpful staff for a voucher that will let you park at the other one for free. This is what I did.

I started at the Villa, located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. To visit the Villa, you must get your free ticket online. You can't just drive up expecting to get in. Their online system allows you your choice of day and time. Print out your ticket at home & bring it with you. You pay for parking when you get there. I paid cash. I'm not sure if you can pay by card but their check-in system was pretty low-tech so I don't think so.

The signage was great and the staff was really helpful. It was easy to park, get into the museum, and find my way around. I recommend wearing sunscreen and a hat and/or sunglasses, although the museum offers sun umbrellas free of charge. There's a lot to see outside.

View of the main garden at The Getty Villa.

A sign told me that these intricate outdoor
hallways were built for shady strolling in the garden.

The main pool at The Getty Villa.

I think my favorite thing on the property was all of the amazing tile work, including all of the mosaics:

Detail of the mosaic work in the outdoor hallway.

Beautiful mosaic fountain in a side garden.

Inside, there are two floors full of the artwork of antiquity. Most antiquity collections are pretty standard: Grecian urns, marble statues, gold coins, etc. While the Villa had all of that, it also had so much more. One of my favorite exhibits was the ancient glasswork:

Mind blown that this stuff has survived for
thousands of years.

This lovely blue bowl was my favorite.

Unfortunately, most of my other favorite things were part of the special collection (now through August 25 of this year, the art of Byzantium) so pictures weren't allowed. I was wowed by: tiny gold scrolls inscribed with prayers; tiny jewel amulets inscribed with magic spells; the complete mummy of a young man named Herakleides; and an illustrated book that was over 1,000 years old.

I spent about an hour and a half at the Villa. I could have spent a lot more time there, but I wanted to get to the Center. There were a variety of free tours and movies that I didn't utilize. Also, there were a lot of rooms I breezed through a bit quickly because I didn't want to waste time.

The official address for The Getty Center is 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. It's about a half hour drive from the Villa. If you're coming from the Villa, your GPS will send you up I-405 north. I recommend getting off at the Moraga exit and following the signs to the Center. Otherwise, your GPS may send you off in the opposite direction, like mine did.

There is no need to get a ticket for the Center beforehand. Once there, you park in the garage and take a tram up to the museum. The tram is free. Like the Villa, the Center offers free sun umbrellas and I recommend you use one or wear sunscreen because you will spend a significant amount of time outside.

View of one of The Getty Center's buildings.

View of two of the The Getty Center's buildings.

The Center was more confusing to navigate than the Villa, mostly because it's much bigger. A free map was provided, but I personally didn't find it very useful. However, the staff there are very friendly & I'm sure would have been helpful if I'd stopped to ask. Instead, I sort of wandered. I figured I'd find something awesome no matter where I went. I was right.

First, I came across the European art. I love the Impressionists and the Romantics, so here are a couple of my favorite paintings from those eras:

The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in the Morning Light
Claude Monet

Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino
Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Center also houses one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, "Irises." I didn't take a picture of it because I figured practically everyone has seen it.

My other favorite collection of the afternoon was the special collection, photography of the Victorian era. Specifically, the collection includes many of Queen Victoria's personal photographs (apparently she was a buff), on loan from Queen Elizabeth II (it was so weird to see the words "on loan from Queen Elizabeth II"). Since it was the special collection, I wasn't allowed to take pictures.

By now, it was early afternoon and I was hot and tired (temps were well into the 90s) so I stopped by the on-site cafe for some food and a cold drink. The prices were reasonable by LA standards and the food was pretty good. There was a variety of options. After lunch, I stepped outside to visit the gardens:

View of the garden from above.

Flowers in the garden.

Flowers and trees in the garden.

By time I was finished in the garden, it was getting late enough that I was growing concerned about hitting traffic. I wanted to avoid rush hour. Even so, leaving around 3 p.m., I noticed that northbound 405 was already jam packed. Luckily, I was going south. If you've got a special voucher for the parking, you need to stop by the parking office (at the bottom end of the tram line) to have your ticket scanned. Otherwise you'll get stuck paying another $15.

I spent probably about two and a half hours at the Center and could have spent much longer. As with the Villa, I didn't utilize any of the free tours or movies. I also probably saw about a third of what was on offer.

In the future, I would not do both of these in one day again. That's my advice to you. Unless you're on a tight budget or are feeling particularly ambitious, go to these museums separately and really take the time to enjoy them because there is a lot to enjoy. Also, be prepared for crowds. There were tons of people there, including vast groups of school children.

All in all, however, this was an immensely pleasurable experience. I will definitely be visiting both again.


Patricia said...

Man. That Villa is something else! I was mesmerized by the tile too. I've not ever had any desire to visit the Los Angeles area, but your posts are starting to tempt me.

balyien said...

There's a lot of cool stuff here. I had a huge negative stereotype about LA before moving here and it's largely been proven false, although I think that's because I don't live in LA proper.

Also, as cool as the Villa and Center were, I don't recommend reading up on J. Paul Getty. That guy was a jerk, lol.