on January 29, 2012
It is impossible not to be impressed by The Getty Museum. The expansive centre attracts over a million visitors each year but still manages to exude calm, tranquility and beauty. It is one of the few very large galleries that is a work of art on the outside as well as in. Entry to the museum is by way of a steep and winding cable car. Cars leave regularly from the car park level, depositing visitors into the 24-acre campus in the Santa Monica Mountains. The one unfortunate aspect is the immediate view of Interstate 405 but otherwise, the centre manages to focus most of the visitor attention on the complexes many fine features, such as a cactus garden, towering fountains of bougainvillea and terraces shaded from the Californian sun by pillars and arches reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture. We arrived at the museum around lunchtime and like many visitors must do, headed straight for the lunch queue. The food at the main cafeteria was surprisingly good and varied, with freshly cooked burgers, giant salads and a choice of sandwiches and Mexican fare. The dishes aren’t especially cheap but the portions are large. Plus we were able to eat outside and the surroundings are quite pleasant. After lunch we made our way through the entrance hall to the central garden. The entrance hall has a corridor of arced fountains that create a delicate tunnel of watery fingers. A sloping staircase winds down to the garden below. At the end of each ramp it is possible to admire the view down across Los Angeles although the smog often obscures much of what is in the distance. The garden was created by Robert Irwin and is 134,000 square feet of artwork itself. Walkways cross a stream that washes over a stone waterfall, flowing down to a floating maze of azaleas. Grassy banks provide areas for families to stop and enjoy the sun or to take a break from viewing the galleries. Irwin included around 500 different plant varieties in the garden and the landscaping is immaculate and inspiring, so much so, that I found myself a little reluctant to go inside to the galleries. Having only half a day to spend at the centre, we focused on the West Pavillion but stopped into the Exhibitions Pavillion as well to check out the 2011-2012 exhibition on post-World War Two Los Angeles art. The West Pavillion featured a fascinating exhibition of work by German / American painter and photographer Lyonel Feininger. It showed his movement from painting to photography and how he played with light and shadow in night photographs and with reflections and double exposures. In the Exhibitions Pavillion we moved quite quickly through the ‘Pacific Standard Time’ exhibition of Southern Californian contemporary art as we were less impressed by the artwork on display. It probably didn’t help that we had just viewed Van Gogh’s "Irises" in the West Pavillion but the contemporary sculptures and paintings in the Pacific Standard Time exhibition just didn’t seem very exciting or creative. We returned to the entrance hall area to admire the travertine walls and well ordered gardens one last time before making our way back down the hill in the cable car.
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