When my uncle first suggested I go see the J. Paul Getty Museum, I wasn't even sure what it was. I hastily consulted the all-knowing Google and in my excitement to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios, I dismissed it as something to see if I was bored.
As we approached the Santa Monica Mountains hilltop that the Getty Villa was located on, it appeared somewhat like a modern castle of some sort. After parking the car we boarded the rather cute tram that carried visitors up and down the hillside (later I found that the architect intentionally wanted to use the tram ride as a means of allowing the visitor to appreciate the natural setting of the museum). After reading a brochure I picked up, I felt excited when I found out that the architect was Richard Meier, someone I've heard of in my lectures at uni.
As we disembarked the tram, limestone tiles stretched out on the floor on which building forms of interesting geometric patterns were clad in shades of white squares. It was so large, I wasn't even sure where to begin and looking at the different levels that the museum spread out made it seem all the more exciting. I decided the smartest thing to do was to walk up to the main building and steal some more brochures.
We decided to take a quick walk around the gardens before taking part in an architectural tour. There are several tours available throughout the day including Gardens Tours, Collection Highlights tours and exhibition tours, and for the keen art lovers there are Curator's and Conservator's Gallery Talks, Point of View: Artist's talks and Spotlight After Dark tours.
The garden was just as impressive as the rest of the building. True to the rest of the complex, the garden proved to be an explorer's paradise with surprising plants and flowers and garden fixtures at every corner. Designed by artist Robert Irwin, it was created to the theme 'Always changing, never twice the same.'
After taking a nice long walk around the gardens we just about made it in time for the 45 minute architecture tour. The very nice guide took us around the premises explaining everything from Richard Meier's 'Piano Curves' to his hidden 'Key stones'. What really struck me about this building was that despite it not being the sort building that that jumps out like Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, it is a building that offers a variety of experiences at each turn, be it the way the shadows fall, or the difference in the texture of a wall, or a beautiful view framed by an opening. One of my favourite areas was near the main fountain. If you are hungry I recommend grabbing something from the small café next to it and sitting on the ledge of the fountain while enjoying your snack.
The current exhibition at the museum is Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance. It had everything from paintings to sculpture to excerpts from ancient books. My favourite bit was the area where they played ancient songs from Florence; it very much helped capture the essence of the exhibition. Of course the museum is extensive and there are very many collections to see including paintings, sculptures and manuscripts. Ornaments from the ancient times as well as rooms decorated to recreate eras gone by all stir melancholy feelings of history and what would it be like to live then.
I can say that after a day of walking about in this rather amazing museum I recommend it to everyone. It doesn't really matter if your interest is in architecture, art or landscapes because there is something that will capture everyone. Also, as advised by one of the nice curators, if you have time, don't forget to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu as well. You can get the tickets from the visitor's centre or book them online.
Oh, and in the spirit of saving the best for last, both museums are completely free. I shall leave you with this video to get into the mood for a day of exploration at the Getty Centre!