Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Getty Villa

In the early 1970s, billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (1892-1976) built a re-creation of a first-century Roman villa on his ranch in Pacific Palisades to display his growing art collection to the public. Critics derided the project as a kitchy theme-park, but Getty defended the faux-Roman villa arguing that it was more appropriate for displaying classical art than a traditional "neutral" museum setting.

The Villa is located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here is the main pool with the Villa in the background:

The Inner Peristyle has bronze replicas of the statutes found at the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy, the building on which the Getty Villa is based:

In 1997, the Getty Foundation relocated its main collection, as well as its administrative and research centers to the giant Getty Center in nearby Brentwood. The Villa was reopened to the public in 2006 after a major renovation by architects Machado and Jorge Silvetti and it continues to house the Getty's ancient collection.

In 2005, the Italian government indicted the Getty's head antiquities curator, Marion True, for conspiracy to traffic in illegal antiquities. The Getty has since agreed to return dozens of pieces with dubious provenance to Italy. Despite its involvement in controversy, the Getty still holds an excellent ancient art collection which it displays thematically in galleries such as "Women and Children in Antiquity," "Athletes and Competition," and "Wine in Antiquity." The thematic displays and the villa setting make the museum particularly accessible and popular with the general public. Images from the collection are available online on the Getty's website.

The Villa grounds include beautifully landscaped gardens and courtyards, picnic areas, an outdoor cafe, and an open air theater.

With an average of 345 days of sunshine per year in Pacific Palisades, even grumpy people who think the Getty Villa is tacky will probably enjoy a visit.

Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but you have to reserve a time-slot in advance online. If you drive, parking is $15 per car. More information about visiting the Getty Villa is available on the Getty website. The Getty Villa refers to itself as the "Getty Malibu," presumably for marketing purposes, however, it is actually located in Pacific Palisades in the city of Los Angeles, not over the border in the city of Malibu.

View Getty Villa in a larger map

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