The Getty Center

Forget ‘get him to The Greek’ (sorry Russell, sorry Jonah) if you come to LA, even for just a few days, get yourself to The Getty, a privately owned and all sorts of amazing gallery in LA.

Before we get to the art, let’s talk about The Getty Center itself.  Now, even if you’ve never been to LA, you’ve probably heard of The Getty.

The Getty Center exists because of of J.Paul Getty, a very interesting American oil billionaire and art collector. He was involved in a fascinating hostage negotiation when his grandson was kidnapped in Rome. Amazing stuff – definitely google it (right after you finish reading this riveting post, of course).

After Getty’s death in the 70s, his entire collection was left to The Getty Trust. Architect extraordinaire Richard Meier was commissioned to create The Getty Center and after much hard work, it opened to the public in 1997.

We did a free guided architecture tour, meeting our guide on the bench outside the main entrance door at 3pm. We very much recommend this. You get to stroll the beautiful grounds in the afternoon sunshine and learn the story of how this amazing place came to be. Perfect.

The Getty is located on the top of rolling hills in the Santa Monica mountains and the views are incredible. You will see the Pacific Ocean, the surrounding mountains and the sprawling city of Los Angeles. If you go in the afternoon and stay till dusk it’s really beautiful to see all the car lights on the freeways come on. You get a great perspective of Los Angeles from up here.

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Meier’s style is super modern, he loves his lines to line up and he loves the colour white. Here, while there are lots of straight lines, he has utilised arches and curves. Our lovely guide tells us that these curves complement the classical nature of the Getty’s art collection.

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The exterior is covered in square aluminium panels. Interesting, these are a bright white when facing the inside of the Getty complex, but are slightly duller in colour when facing the outside. This has become known as ‘Getty white’ and was done to cut down on the glare for the benefit of the neighbours.

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That is pretty glare-y.

Beautiful travertine stone sourced from Italy is used throughout. If you look closely when you walk around you might even spot little fossils of leaves in the stone. This stone is warm and beautiful, particularly in the afternoon light.

Behold the wonder.

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LA has shockingly bad public transport. That is why good old Mr Meier located the Getty right on the San Diego Freeway, so it would at least be easy to get there by car. There are beautiful, kind of space-age-feeling trams that take you from the carpark up the hill to the Center. You kind of feel like you’re entering somewhere magical and exciting, like Jurassic Park before things get dangerous.

The landscaping is also pretty gorgeous and the garden is definitely worth a look.

See this one tree?

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Well, actually –

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Isn’t that clever. Such. Soothing. Symmetry.

Once you’ve checked out the outside, it’s time to explore the masterpieces on display inside.

Our lovely friend E was particularly taken by the sculptures.

We loved the impressionists’ area. All the big names are here. Sisley. Renoir. Monet.

Look at the brushwork in this Sisley, The Road from Versailles to Saint-Germain.

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And this! This is Monet’s largest still life.

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When you’re standing in front of it, you can just feel the serenity. So much serenity.

Unlike almost every other gallery, here you can actually snap pictures of your favourite pieces.

The Getty is a gorgeous place. It clearly took years of planning and hard work to bring this dream into reality.  Sometimes its good for the soul to see what beauty can be created with hard work and a plan (and some cash money too, that always comes in handy).

Trip Notes:

  • You could easily spend a whole day or multiple days up enjoying the beauty of The Getty, but if you have a busy LA schedule you can definitely enjoy the Getty in a just a few hours. This one of those times where you have to trust that you’ll take from the visit what you need to, there’s no need to see everything.
  • The Architecture tour was free, no booking required you just show up at the bench seat near the main entrance door just before 3pm. The tour lasts 45 minutes, where you walk between the main buildings on the campus and listen to some great info.
  • The audio guides once  you get inside are also free. You will need to leave your ID to collect one.
  • There is plenty of car parking on-site. It will cost you $15 US.
  • Look for the guy who looks like Larry David in the gift shop! Do you think it could be him? Seems like something he might do?!
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