A Futuristic Shrine to the Art of the Past
Masterpiece of famed architect Richard Meier, the 110-acre, six-building Getty Center was fourteen years and one billion dollars in the making, opening in 1997 as a modern Acropolis perched atop a Santa Monica mountain ridge and looking out over L.A. to the Pacific.
Designed to house the ever-expanding Getty collection of pre-20th-century art and a Iibrary of more than 1 million books on art history the hilltop citadel is a work of art itself, done in gleaming off white travertine marble and glass.
Luminous, sometimes soaring galleries rely heavily on natural light and are interspersed with courtyards, fountains, connecting walkways, and windows that frame views of the Robert lrwin-designed gardens and beyond.
Van Gogh’s lrises and five Cezannes (including his Still Life with Apples) are the Getty’s magnets to the masses, but the museum’s real strength remains its esoteric specialty collections, from Renaissance to Impressionism and 18th-century European decorative arts.
There is no more wonderful place to watch the sun set over the Pacific than from the wraparound terrace of the center’s restaurant whose cuisine of Californian, Asian, and Mediterranean flavors is attracting as much attention as the art.
The same innovative kitchen oversees a simpler menu at the popular cafe. Food is a big part of the Getty’s charms, exemplifying the attention the center devotes to atmosphere and all-around experience.
Among the other museums that add art to L.A.’s pop culture identity are the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Pasadena’s small but excellent Norton Simon Museum, San Marino’s Huntington Gardens and Galleries, and the Getty’s sister museum, the Getty Villa in Malibu.
This Pompeii inspired home was commissioned from afar by the expatriate American oil billionaire John Paul Getty, ranked among the richest men of modern times. It was completed two years before his death in 1976, and although he never visited it, he chose to be buried there.
Today it is devoted to his estimable survey of Greek and Roman antiquities.