The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, opened in 1997, features works of art dating from the eighth through the twenty-first century, showcased against a backdrop of dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and breathtaking views of Los Angeles. The collection includes European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European, Asian, and American photographs. Since L.A. lacks the piazzas and promenades of other major cities, the Getty Center is more than just a museum. Occupying an isolated, hillside perch, the giant multi-terraced art complex has become one of L.A.’s great urban spaces, where visitors can stroll and admire views over the city. Located in the Brentwood Hills above Los Angeles with spectacular panoramic views of the city and the ocean below, the Center comprises the J Paul Getty Museum, five separate arts and humanities institutions, and landscaped gardens and terraces on a 110-acre site. The complex represents a unique order of civic achievement and an intense collaboration between architect and design teams, clients and program coordinators. Richard Meier has created a cultural acropolis for the twenty-first century, striking a delicate balance between humanist, classical organization, and organic forms.
As one of the film industry’s most successful and prolific movie producers, Ray Stark unquestionably left his mark as an industry icon. In 2005 The J. Paul Getty Trust received a major gift of modern sculpture from the collection of the late legendary film producer Ray Stark and his wife, Fran. The gift to the Getty was comprised of 28 modern and contemporary outdoor sculptures that represented a major transformation to the Getty Center. The sculptures are located throughout the Getty and integrated with the environment and architecture to create a dramatic outdoor art experience. The Getty hired Richard Meier and Partners along with the Olin Partnership (the original architect and landscape designers, respectively, for the Center) to develop and prepare the installation. Artists’ works represented are among the best the 20th century had to offer including Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Ellsworth Kelly, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein, Rene Magritte, Astride Maillol, Marino Marini, Joan Miro and Henry Moore. A grouping of them are located in the sculpture garden at the bottom stop of the Tram.
You get to the Getty Center by means of a tram which takes you up the hill. At the bottom are gardens, parking and a café while at the top is the complex of buildings forming the Getty Center. The top of the hill is 900 feet (270 m) above I-405, high enough that on a clear day it is possible to see not only the Los Angeles skyline but also the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains to the east as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Getty Center complex uses colossal quantities of travertine, 1.2 million square feet of it, from the same source as the stone of the Roman Colosseum. The travertine used for the Getty Center is between 8,000 and 80,000 years old. Several types of fossilized leaves can be seen in the stone, evidence of the swampy conditions that existed at the time of the stone's formation. The Center's travertine is split with the grain of the stone, making visible many more fossils than are seen in the more common banded travertine, which is cross-sectioned and polished.
Visitors typically arrive at a tram station in the arrival plaza located between the administrative buildings and the Museum entrance. A large set of steps leads to the main doors of the rotunda building. The rotunda building houses information desks, two orientation theaters and Museum shops. It also holds a grand staircase that starts a path toward the paintings located on the second floor of each art pavilion. The rotunda opens to the south to a terrace that links all five of the Museum pavilions. A separate building to the west of the arrival plaza and stairs holds a cafeteria and restaurant. Next to the restaurant is a stone arch, which separates the Museum from the GRI. Stairs from the terrace connecting the GRI and the restaurant lead down to the central garden.
As I said, while there are food stands throughout the property, the cafeteria and restaurant are in a separate building to the west of the museum complex.
Between the buildings filled with art is a beautiful plaza with fountains and little places to grab some coffee and sweets.
At the southern tip of the complex are gardens, seemingly floating in air, with great vistas of Los Angeles. It is a beautiful museum complex for an equally beautiful collection of art and deserves a visit on any trip to Los Angeles. Aside from the beautiful surroundings and exquisite art, admission is free, with only a $15 parking fee for the car. This is almost unheard of for a museum of this quality and this generous gesture of free admission on the part of the trustees is taken up by throngs of young visitors, eager to discover the magic of great art. You cannot see everything in a single day; consider planning several days to get the best experience.
Architecture of the Getty Center: http://academic.reed.edu/getty/