Today we spent the entire day at The Getty Center…literally the entire day. We arrived just after 10 am and didn’t leave until 4.30 pm, an hour before closing. My feet are screaming at me, but, it was so worth it. As well as exploring on our own, we joined a collections highlight tour and went on a Museum Hack tour! I am going to write about our day hour-by-hour. It seems like the most rationale way to approach what was an absolutely massive day. I don’t think I’ve ever spent this long at one cultural institution.
Before I start, however, here is just a quick summary of The Getty. Some of the works were purchased by J. Paul Getty – an incredibly rich oil industrialist. His passion was collecting European art between, approximately, 1300 and 1900. The Getty Trust continues to collect art from this period as well as more modern photography and sculptures. The Getty Villa, at Malibu, houses an antiquity collection.
To get to The Getty, you must first ride a funicular up the hill. It is quite an experience simply getting to the entrance! On arrival, we were really impressed with how attentive the staff were – handing out umbrellas (because it was so hot) and ‘what’s on’ guides.
The Getty consists of five main buildings. The first thing we did was work out what we wanted to see and if there were any interesting tours. There was a collections highlight tour at 11.15 am that sounded like a great place to start. To fill in the hour, we visited the South Pavilion to see A Queen’s Treasure from Versailles: Marie-Antoinette’s Japanese Lacquer.
It was a small exhibition, but, contained some beautiful objects. It is believed that Marie- Antoinette had the largest collection of Japanese lacquer boxes in Europe. Some of the boxes on display had not been seen since the French Revolution. My favourite can be seen below, a dog-shaped box. It looks as though the dog is resting on the ground and looking at its owner.
We then spent some time wandering around the Versailles collection. This included the dressing chair of Marie-Antoinette. It felt as though you were walking through one of the countless palaces in Europe.
It was time for the collections highlight tour. I was so glad that the guide used a microphone and we could hear through little earpieces. Nothing is more frustrating than when you’re on a tour and cannot hear the guide.
Our guide, Gabrielle, was fantastic. She knew a lot about The Getty and was clearly passionate about art. After hearing a little about the architecture of the Getty, we headed inside to our first stop. I could not believe that the floor and some of the walls had been constructed out of the same type of marble used to build the colosseum. Now that is showing commitment to Europe.
We stopped at the bust of Pope Paul V by Bernini, a couple of works by Rembrandt and some works on display in the Impressionists Gallery. For me, the highlight of the highlight tour was seeing Irises by Vincent Van Gogh. This was the first work he painted after booking himself in to an asylum. The colours were unbelievably vibrant.
A quick note on the bust. It wasn’t recognised as a Bernini until it was sold to The Getty. The individual who purchased it from an art auction paid around $30 000. They later sold it to The Getty for around 30 million.
After grabbing something to eat, we ventured in to see Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography. One thing that really annoys me is when photography is allowed in an exhibition, with the exception of a few pieces that aren’t clearly marked. On the label of some of the works, right in the bottom corner, was a small camera with ‘no photograph’ printed next to it. The labels needed to be bigger to avoid the confusion that was constantly happening.
The exhibition was displayed chronologically. There were some amazing photographs and clothing on display. I particularly enjoyed the earlier works as the later ones were all a bit too bizarre.
The entrance to the exhibition was, understandably, dimly lit. What didn’t help was having a really dark paint on the wall with white text over the top. It was not a welcoming way to start. Once your eyes had adjusted, you were then exposed to comparatively bright light in the rest of the exhibition. A small thing to note, but, it did have an impact on my experience.
We left this exhibition and walked outside to the cactus garden to snap some photographs. There was quite an assortment of cactus extending out over the hill.
I really wanted to see the exhibition, Art of Three Faiths, that showcased a Bible, Torah and Qur’an. The exhibition literally consisted of these three items in separate display cases. Next to each was a short explanation of the religion they represented. I was more interested in seeing the beautiful calligraphy and imagery on display. I was not disappointed.
We only spent a short time in this exhibition. After, we visited the shop and relaxed before our final tour.
Museum Hack is a company that promises to deliver entertaining tours. Currently, it operates in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. I was beyond excited to finally have the opportunity to experience one of these tours – and I was most definitely not disappointed.
Our guide, Monisha, was incredible! We were the only two booked on the tour so essentially it was a private tour – very fancy.
The following two hours were filled with hilarious stories, challenges, and opportunities to interact with the artworks. It was a tour that cut out all the boring parts and got right to the stuff that was interesting. Here is an example of a story, challenge, and interactive opportunity.
Story: one of my favourite stories was about the chandelier pictured below. Superficially, it looks like a pretty over-the-top piece of art. The small bowl-like structure hanging below, however, was designed to be filled with water and hold a goldfish. You would never know just by looking at it today!
Challenge: in one of the galleries we were asked to find two individuals in the artworks on display and come up with a love story. It was a fun way to actually look at everything in the gallery! I chose these two and came up with a story about how she was bored of everyone and everything and he was constantly a third wheel.
Interactive opportunity: this one was my favourite. In the sculpture gallery we could select one statue to pose with and copy its stance etc. Here was my attempt.
If you are ever in one of the cities mentioned earlier, make sure you book yourself on one of these tours. You will laugh so hard it hurts and wish that the tour would never end.
It was time to leave and head back to our hotel. I had the best day in the oasis that is The Getty.