Our last day in California was reserved for a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I first heard about the Getty several years ago, when they were sued by Italy for knowingly acquiring marble statues and other Italian antiquities that had been looted from archeological sites. Their former curator stood trial on charges in Italy. The Getty has returned some of the items after it was determined they were stolen, but they still have other pieces that have suspicious origins. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out. Most of these items are housed at the Getty Villa, which is a sculpture museum on a different site than we visited.
We got to the Getty about 10:30 and parked in their massive bomb-shelter – I mean garage – and then came back up to ground level. From there, you take a tram up the hill to the museum itself. The views of LA are amazing, and when you see the museum, it is even more impressive. The courtyards and buildings are made from marble and concrete, and are massive. There are fountains and gardens with a manicured maze too. And beyond paying $15 per car for parking, admission is free. They offer little maps of the exhibits and the grounds, but I have to say, their map kind-of sucked. Several times we wandered over to a building because I was sure that it was the one the map was pointing us to, only to find out that oops, that’s not it!
Once we figured out our bearings, we started touring. We started out in their Europeon wing, where they had art and objects from 14th, 15th and 16th century Europe. Of course art at that point was mostly religious art, so we toured lots of Virgin Marys, Jesuses, and some John the Baptists. There were some mythical depictions too, to spice things up a bit. I liked their collection of drug jars. Apparently the pharmacy jars of the time period survived in better shape than household goods, and many of them were quite ornate! But, after awhile, you see one Virgin Mary, you’ve seen ’em all, so we headed to another section.
Exhibit two was documentary photography from the 1960s to present. They had some very interesting exhibits, including a group of photos of Seattle street kids in the 1980s, and one titled “Kids with Money.” Southern California kids with more money than they knew what to do with shopping, putting on makeup, and getting all dolled up for their 7th grade parties. It was eye opening.
But the most powerful exhibit was a huge montage of photos from the Iraq war. Instead of focusing on battle views, the photographer chose to photograph in operating rooms. These photos of soldiers bloodied and torn apart brought tears to my eyes. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is, to look at these photos is to understand that something has gone wrong in the world. I left that exhibit feeling very saddened for those men and women and their families.
The last exhibit we had time for was their special exhibit on Gerome, who was a French artist in the mid-to-late 19th century. I had not heard of him before, but I will certainly look up more about his work. These works were also on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in France, which is currently undergoing renovations and has loaned many of their exhibits to museums around the world. But back to Gerome – he paints with a very realistic style, which gives his works a near photographic quality. He has the talent to pain humans and animals and objects flawlessly and his paintings sometimes have entire landscapes occurring beyond what is going on in the foreground. His use of color is magnificent. Jon and I were both very impressed. Apparently, directors in the early 20th century often used his paintings as their inspiration for scenes in movies – they showed several still photos from early Hollywood movies next to one of Geromes works and you could clearly see that they copied directly from his painting. If you have the opportunity to see this exhibit, you should.
After we were done there, it was time to head back to the airport. Of course, it is LA, so there was a traffic jam. We moved very slowly back to the airport, worried about the time, only to find out that our plane was delayed anyway. Our friends were on the same flight home though, so we ended up chatting with them before getting on our plane an hour late. A pleasant flight home and a very late bedtime concluded our Southern California vacation. Can’t wait to go back and explore some more!