When I lived in Los Angeles more than two decades ago, a major construction project graced the bluffs at the top of the Sepulveda Pass. I could see its skeleton structure often. That’s because when you’re on the 405 freeway going through the pass, you’re stuck 87% of the time in glacial traffic and need some visual distractions before you “move” again.
A friend from my work at the time informed me that it was going to be the new Getty Center Museum, a cultural institute on par with that of the Met in New York or Louvre in Paris.
Culture in Los Angeles?
Ha, ha. You know that old joke about the only culture in L.A. is in a cup of yogurt? You haven’t? OK, it is kind of lame…
Anyway, I was looking forward to seeing the Getty, because until then we only had LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and a few smaller places. All of them were fine for viewing art, but they were in locations a little on the humdrum side
Then the 6.7 Northridge earthquake hit.
Seeing the Getty, twenty years later
I didn’t stick around long enough for it to open, choosing instead to go to non-shaky Arizona for grad school. But I guess I just had little longer to wait for its eventual opening in late 1997.
Now it took a good part of those two decades for my family and me finally to visit the Getty last December. I don’t think going any earlier would have had any benefit, because the girls are just now starting to appreciate different kinds of art, not just Japanese manga.
The grand entrance
You can go to the main complex either by walking up the hill or on a winding tram railway. Once you get to the top, the words that will come to mind are likely palatial and bright. Several tiers of marble stairs lead up to the main building, called the rotunda, and leads to five other grand white buildings, made primarily of travertine. The Getty is certainly one of those places where you will NOT be able to see everything in one day.
Like the Met and the Louvre…and it’s one of the few attractions in Los Angeles that’s absolutely free. Of course, you still have to pay for parking ($15), but where is parking in this town free, anyway?
Our brief visit
To avoid overwhelm, we stayed mostly in the North and East Pavilions, which featured European Medieval and pre-Renaissance art. We quickly buzzed through a few special exhibits, like this one on printing:
This strategy proved to be manageable…and give us a reason to return on a later L.A. trip.
About the art itself: It’s an impressive collection that makes you wonder how these master artists envisioned the mostly religious ideas of their patrons. Much of what we viewed was similar to the pieces RAS and I saw in L’ Accademia in Florence four years ago.
If you have older kids, as we do, make sure you stop in the Sketching Gallery, located on the upper level of the East Pavilion. Here, anyone can create drawings from paintings and sculptures, sitting on artists’ benches. This was undoubtedly JRS’s and NLS’s favorite part of the museum.
Culture in L.A.? To paraphrase Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl“: Totally, for sure.