It has been over a year since Ali and I relocated from California to New York . Some of our fondest West Coast memories include visits to Getty Villa.
Based in Malibu, the Villa, set within beautifully tended Roman-inspired gardens, houses Getty’s antiquities collection. Despite being located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, the museum feels a world away from the bustle of Los Angeles. So peaceful and pleasant, the Villa’s grounds marry the best of both worlds: a coastal location with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, set high in the mountains. While enjoying a glass of red with a cheese board between exhibits, you will forget you’re in Los Angeles.
John Paul Getty was the only child of oil tycoon, George F. Getty. An avid art collector, J. Paul Getty owned a sizeable collection and decided to open his first museum to the public. In 1954, the museum was established in his Ranch House, but as Getty’s collection of paintings, antiquities, and decorative arts increased, so did talks of expansion. Getty decided to build a major art museum on his Ranch property, and plans for Getty Villa were drawn up.
The Villa pays homage to Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum which, located on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius, had enjoyed unobstructed views of the sea before being swallowed by a volcanic eruption. Because many of Papiri’s remains have not been excavated, the Villa’s architectural and landscaping features were modeled on homes in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.
* Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by Vesuvius’ volcanic eruption in AD 79. Today, the town is located in Ercolano (modern Italian name) in the Italian region of Campania.
After Getty’s death in 1976 — the Villa opened in 1974 — the Getty Trust expanded the art collection, which required a new museum complex to be built over a much larger area. Land was purchased in the Santa Monica Mountains, and Getty Center, established in 1997, now serves as the main museum.
At Getty Center, you’ll see photograph, painting, sculpture, drawing, and illustrative manuscript exhibitions (getty.edu).
At Getty Villa, expect an Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities collection, and excellent public programs — tours, performances, and films.
J. Paul Getty left his art collection as a gift to Los Angeles. Both The Getty Villa and The Getty Center are free to public, but an advance-purchase entry-timed ticket to the Villa is required. See http://www.getty.edu/visit/ Currently, The Getty Villa is running an exhibit called, Modern Antiquity: Picasso, de Chirico, Léger, and Picabia in the Presence of the Antique. It’s end on 16 January,2012, but I have it on my wish list should we visit California in time. Viewing the exhibits, strolling the gardens, and having a bite to eat — this combination makes for a perfect day.