Southern California February 2016: The J. Paul Getty Museum

At the beginning of February, my brother and I decided to escape the cold of Utah for a sunny weekend in Southern California. We drove to the Los Angeles area and spent an all-too-short yet lovely weekend doing all of our favorite things: visiting museums, relaxing at the beach, and of course, going to Disneyland! Today I’m going to talk to you about two of the amazing art museums in the Los Angeles area: the Getty Villa and the Getty Center.

As a bit of background, both the Getty Villa and the Getty Center are part of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which is one of the greatest art collections in the United States. J. Paul Getty (1892-1976), founder the Getty Oil Company, collected art and began showing his collection at his house in Pacific Palisades in 1954, and then expanded his house with a museum wing. He built a replica of an Italian villa on his property in the 1970s to better house his collection. The entire property and collection was turned over the Getty Trust after Getty’s death, and as the collection grew, it was divided between the two locations.

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa houses the J. Paul Getty Museum’s ancient Greek and Roman collection. Located in Malibu, the Getty Center is modeled on a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy.

Getty Villa Architecture

As a big fan of ancient art and architecture, the Getty Villa is one of my favorite places, period. Their collection of magnificent pieces from antiquity is truly astounding. Whether you’re interested in seeing stunning sculptures…

Roman Sculpture Getty Villa

…beautiful mosaics…

Roman Mosaic Getty Villa

…incredible portrait sculpture…

Caesar Augustus Getty Villa

…or you simply want to enjoy the fabulous surroundings, the Getty Villa has you covered.

Getty Villa Gardens

They also have great temporary exhibitions. While I was there, I caught their exhibit, “Greece’s Enchanting Landscape: Watercolors by Edward Dodwell and Simone Pomardi,” the week before it closed. Since I love both watercolors and Greece, this was heavenly for me!

The Getty Center

The Getty Center holds the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of European and American art, from medieval through contemporary. One of the great things about the Getty Center is it really has something for everyone – whether you love Renaissance paintings or modern photography, Impressionism or 19th-century Neoclassicism, French Rococo or medieval altarpieces – or all of the above. (Below are just a couple of my personal favorites.)

Getty Center David Farewell of Telamachus and Eucharis
Jacques-Louis David, The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis, 1818, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Getty Center Bernini Pope Paul V
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Bust of Pope Paul V, 1621, The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Getty Center also regularly features temporary exhibitions that are truly astounding. In spring 2015 I saw “J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free,” at the Getty Center (another vacation planned around an art exhibition), in summer 2015 I saw “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World” (currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, until March 20, 2016), and on this trip, my brother and I saw both “Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV” and “The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals.”

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in most of their temporary exhibitions, but I assure you that they are breathtaking. The “Woven Gold” exhibition closes on May 1, 2016, and the “Edible Monument” exhibition closes on March 13, 2016, so go while you can!

Getty Center Architecture Sunset

Its incredible collection aside, the Getty Center is impressive in and of itself. Designed by Richard Meier, the Getty Center opened in 1997 and is perched atop a hill that offers truly stunning views of Los Angeles. Its architecture is simply magnificent (did you know that exterior shots of the Getty Center featured in Star Trek Into Darkness as Star Fleet Headquarters?), and don’t even get me started on that beautiful, beautiful travertine stone that was quarried in Bagni di Tivoli, near Rome, Italy.

Getty Center Stairs

A Challenge for You, Dear Reader

Okay, it really isn’t a challenge; it’s more of an invitation. Go to the Getty! When time is limited, as it was on this trip, I have to make strategic, heartbreaking decisions about which museums to visit in the Los Angeles area (believe me, there are more!). On this trip, I chose the J. Paul Getty Museum – a decision I have certainly not regretted.

And never fear: Even if you aren’t an art buff, you can enjoy both the Getty Villa and the Getty Center. (Prime example: my brother, who likes art but has never taken an art history course. He adores both of the Getty Museum locations.)

If you feel so inclined, please leave me a comment about which J. Paul Getty Museum location you love and why – I always enjoy finding more reasons to love the Getty!

Written by Caroline Larson.

*All photos in this blog article are taken by and property of Caroline Larson.

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