Monday, 23 September 2013

Getty Center

The Getty Center: With an endowment of $4.2 billion, the Getty Trust is the wealthiest art institution in the world.  Its physical manifestation is a campus of pure white buildings north of Los Angeles, designed by architect Richard Meier, with a budget of 1billion dollars, 1997

On two ridges in the Santa Monica Mountains, interconnected buildings of concrete / steel with travertine cladding. The landscape provides a welcome complement to the building’s grandeur, with gardens, plazas and terraces created to prevent erosion. 28 sculptures, including masterpieces by Calder, Magritte and Miró.   The Getty is one of the richest museums in the world and it shows - the architecture, gardens, and views are beautiful and the collection is impressive. Admission free, parking $15 per car. Bring sandwiches to have a picnic in the gardens. 

It is one of two locations of the Getty Museum. This branch of the museum specializes in "pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs". Among the works on display is the painting Irises by Van Gogh. Besides the museum, the center's buildings house related Getty institutes for research, conservation, and the Getty Foundation.

The center also has outdoor sculptures displayed on terraces and in gardens. Designed by architect Richard Meier the campus includes a central garden designed by artist Robert Irwin. GRI's separate building contains a research library with over 900,000 volumes and two million photographs of art and architecture. The center's design included special provisions to address concerns regarding earthquakes and forest fires.

Spiny Top, Curly Bottom, by Alexander Calder

Delusions of Grandeur, Magritte

Did I like it?  Yes, but...

It is wonderfully impressive, from the moment you roll up at the (Getty's own) car park, sunk 7 levels into the hillside, get onboard the (Getty) automatic train to take you to the top of the hill, to the knowledgable volunteer guides who give side tours on the architecture and the gardens.   The setting, and thus the views from the top, are spectacular.  The landscaping is fabulous "money no object", and I particularly liked all the open, and shaded spaces between the buildings.   Richard Meier specialises in white buildings, with a very formal grid applied to the exterior, and you can love or hate this, or in my case tire of it (his museum in Barcelona is just the same).   I did like, very much, the Italian stone used everywhere, in a rough unpolished finish. 

However an art museum is really all about the internal spaces in which the art is displayed and I don't think the Getty is always successful.  Some gallery rooms seemed surprisingly small, the art spaces quite cramped. The quality, though, was exceptional.  I particularly liked the rooms given to French Decorative Arts: walls, ceiling, floors all beautifully installed into Meier's white boxes. 

Another art institution mature enough to allow photography.

Volunteer architecture guide standing against the beautiful stone

If you are going to be in Los Angeles, this is a 'must see'. Allow 5 hours as a minimum.

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