The Getty Center
The J. Paul Getty Trust

Los Angeles, CA.

December 29th, 2002

When visiting Los Angeles, there are an unbelievable number of things to see and places to go.  I would never attempt to rate them in order of importance.  This said, I am sure that if such a list exists The Getty Center would be right at the top. It all started many years ago when Jean Paul Getty (1892-1976) inherited his father's oil business. After a rather successful business career resulting in his building a wealth estimated at some 3 billion dollars.  From 1950 till his death, he lived in England.  With unlimited funds, he indulged in collecting the finest art Europe had to offer.  This eventually overran his estate and he explored the creation of a museum to show off his acquisitions.  When the first museum located at Getty's home in Malibu became too small, a second one was built nearby and opened in 1974.  This one (called The Villa) also eventually closed but is scheduled to reopen soon.  In 1983 the Trust purchased 750 acres in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood .  The next year architect Richard Meier was selected to create the Getty Center. From the first it was intended to be the showplace of the Pacific coast, rivaled only by the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  The center occupies the top 124 acres (50 hectares) located on a spectacular promontory overlooking Los Angeles.  It consists of six buildings. The architecture is spectacular.  Massive curved arches adorned by glass everywhere.  The entire center is organized in a grid composed of 30-inch squares. The rough surface block extensively used for walkways and on the exterior walls is Travertine.  An innovative splitting process created the distinctive rough surface.  Each block is fitted with stainless steel anchors that hook the stone into place and allow it to move safely in an earthquake. Included in the displays is the entire Getty Collections of European paintings, sculptures,  manuscripts and some really great photographs.  Many excellent examples of Renaissance furniture are on display.   It is only a short hop from the expressway to the Center.  The first thing that impressed me was the massive parking system. It can handle thousands of cars in an orderly and efficient manner, which got us parked in a very short time.  After reading the customary tourist warning about leaving anything of value in the car, we proceeded down a well groomed pathway to the tram station.  These are wonderfully smooth electric trains that carry hundreds at a time to the top of the rather steep hill.  Traveling at around 10 MPH, it takes a good 5 minutes to reach the summit.  For those with good health and a desire for exercise, the adjoining road is available to hikers.  It must  be shared with dozens of tour buses ascending the hill and takes about 15 minutes.  Our choice was to do it all so we rode up and walked down.
The complex looms above like a giant castle and the ride gave us an opportunity to view the vista from different angles.  We stopped at a very modern tram stop at the Arrival Plaza.  To our right was a restaurant.  After pausing  a few seconds for a couple of quick photos (which I stitched together) we headed up the stairs and into the main entrance.    For the next couple of hours we wandered through the many floors of the six buildings taking in all the sights.  When we weren't examining some exquisite masterpiece, we were wandering the fabulous gardens.  It would be impossible to list all the things we examined.  Most items were free standing, with no glass or other protection except a very watchful room monitor who sternly spoke to me when my camera lens violated the primary rule by coming within 6 inches of an object.  A definite NO NO. The items where displayed in this manner because Mr. Getty wanted people to be able to see these items as they would in his home, not in a museum. One of these items was a
delightful Calyx Krater (Greek mixing vessel)  340BC. This large vessel depicts the myth of Zeus in which he transformed himself into a beautiful bull to seduce Europa; Pothos, the winged personification of Zeus's amorous longing, hovers above the pair.  Other gods survey the scene from the upper corners of the picture.  The story's marine setting is indicated by the numerous fish as well as the sea monster Skylla, in the lower left corner and the sea god Triton in the lower right.