Thursday, October 9, 2014

$100M Flowers, Rebar Forest and a Tiny Carved Ed Sullivan

Yes, we went to the Getty Center in Los Angeles!

Shalise (soon-to-be-daughter-in-law) has been there before, but this was my first time. We saw nearly all of it in the four hours we gave ourselves, and it did not disappoint.

The Getty has two campuses: the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. I'm looking forward to visiting the Villa as well, but today we were at the Center.  The property includes multi-level exhibit halls, an expansive research center, two incredible gardens, an auditorium, and courtyards - over 24 acres. It is surrounded by more than 700 acres, the majority of which will always be kept in a natural state.  Purchased in 1983 by the Getty Trust for the purpose of housing their expanding collection, the state-of-the-art location opened in 1997.

Home to over $1B in art and history

Considered one of the top museums in the world, admission is free and the doors are open six days a week. Located above Interstate 405, a free tram transports visitors from the bottom of the hill, where you can arrive via public transportation, or park a car for $15. 

Although four levels of parking were full when we arrived about 11:20 AM, the campus never felt crowded. After 1:30 we even had a couple exhibit halls to ourselves.

We started with the photography exhibit of Minor White.  It is the one area where taking pictures is not allowed.  All the pieces are from the 1960's and 1970's and all in black and white. While artistic and unique, after the first twenty or so they started looking pretty much the same. With limited recognizable subjects, they are just too abstract for my taste.

After that we were definitely ready for some color!  You can't go wrong with the Impressionists, and the Monets and Van Goghs are amazing. I can't believe I didn't get a photo of Monet's Rouen Cathedral which is my favorite in that gallery.  Valued at over $100M, Irises is considered the most expensive painting in the world. And there it was - on the wall like my pictures at home!  None of the paintings are "roped off", and you can stand with your nose an inch from the canvas. However, the wires above the pieces, and the placement of museum staff in every room, make it clear that security is high. I was never once tempted to touch a single item.

Very valuable flowers

 The gallery halls have a large variety of works by a large number of artists.
The Laundress, a whimsical favorite

Skin so real looking I wondered if they were cold
Some small pieces have a big impact

Something simple for the family room

Has the whole room to himself

The food options range from a full restaurant near the entrance to a small kiosk in the courtyard.  You can also bring your own and enjoy it at the many outdoor sitting areas.  Shalise and I were hungry about an hour after we arrived and took a break in the courtyard.  Our food from the kiosk was exceptional. Her root veggie and squash salad, and my quinoa and sweet potato wrap, were made of fresh ingredients and very tasty!  No pics - we just dug in :-)

In addition to paintings, there are multiple sculptures in stone, wood and metal. Like the paintings, there is no barrier between you and the art.

Recently acquired. Depicts man holding up the mountain with woman holding on to him (her head leans to the right)

John the Baptist, carved from one piece of wood
Dragons carved of lime wood and dog wood
The dragon piece is one of two, and more than a piece of art, they are very large candle sticks. The detail is exquisite.

Shalise and a towering candle stick

One exhibit hall features elaborate furniture and tapestries from the 1700s and 1800s. Inlaid exotic woods, gold and silver hardware, silks and brocades - beautiful work, but not likely to show up in an HGTV episode anytime soon.
Original gold leaf and silk

Tapestries 12 foot tall and 300 years old

If this piece is nearly 400 years old.....

.....then how did they get Ed Sullivan's face on it?
One of the exhibits I really enjoyed is in a much darker, much cooler, room. These pieces are sealed and individually lit.  The Getty acquired 144 illuminated medieval manuscripts in 1983 from the financially struggling Ludwig Collection in Aachen, Germany. The New York Times called the collection "One of the finest holdings of its kind ever assembled, it is quite certainly the most important that was in private hands."  As a lover of books, I found these old tomes fascinating. They are in remarkable condition given their age and the material used.  It is one of the areas I look forward to spending more time with when I return.

Family genealogy, completed 1626-1711
Medieval prayer book. About the size of two decks of cards - they must have had powerful spectacles to read their prayers

Vivid, long-lasting detail.......
.......created from items found in the wild.
In addition to the art indoors, the grounds include outdoor gardens.  Shalise and I enjoyed the main garden, walking the circular path surrounding a large pond. Although there are many flowers still in bloom, the azaleas that make up the maze within the water are not.  In addition to the central water feature and surrounding gardens, several "trees" made of rebar provide a sharp contrast to the large sloping hill of green grass that rises up to the base of the exhibit halls. Even in the nearly 90 degree temps, some visitors were stretched out on the grass, taking a nap in the sun. 
From the courtyard, across the garden to the research center
Maze of 400 azalea plants

Bougainvillea spills out of rebar trees

Lots of beauty in the garden

Water cascades to the pond behind indigenous plantings

"A sculpture in the form of a garden aspiring to be art" - Robert Irwin, artist
Path through large green slopes

Capturing the L.A. skyline through the garden
The other garden is the South Promontory, a desert landscape which we only saw from above. It provides a sharp contrast to the urban sprawl below.
Century City skyline with South Promontory on the right
Circle of desert overlooking a hazy basin

It was a great day spent in and amongst amazing art and artifacts.  Not only is the place wonderful, but spending time with Shalise is a gift I rarely get to enjoy.
We were in the car by 3:00, off to pick Bill up from work.  I'll be back again :-)


  1. How nice to spend the day with your soon to be daughter in law:) Wow! That is some amazing collection of items. I love the outdoor gardens. I bet the maze is gorgeous in season. Quite the view from the top.

    1. The way the galleries and exhibits are arranged it doesn't feel as overwhelming as it does when viewed from above! I'm hoping to get back in late March when the maze should be bright pink :-)

  2. WOW there is an amazing amount of money in that collection and the land it sits on. I too love those ancient manuscripts. So beautiful. Nothing like it these days, we don't even write letters anymore. I'm sort of surprised there wasn't a walkable labyrinth on the grounds. That would really have been perfect. Thanks so much for the tour of a place I knew nothing about.

    1. I have the labyrinth at the cathedral in L.A. on my list, but there is certainly room for one on the grounds at the Getty!

  3. Love the Getty! Great shots of that beautiful place.

    La Brea Tar Pits on your tourist-at-home trips?

    1. I was so surprised to read it had been there since '97! I can't believe I hadn't been yet.

      Yes on the tar pits! As well as the museums around it. Probably next month :-)

  4. What a fun day! I really liked the wood sculptures and the tapestries.

    1. There was a tapestry in another area that was at least 15' x 12' - there were probably 10 people looking at it so I didn't get a pic - it's beautiful.

  5. Oh my! What a wonderful place to visit. It kind of reminds me of the art at the Smithsonian or even at the Louvre.

    1. Me too :-) Even in the few galleries that had several people it was quiet, like everyone knows you're some place very special.