When in LA, Why You Have to Visit The Getty Villa Museum

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When in LA, You Have to Visit The Getty Villa Museum


I grew up in Los Angeles and only once did I ever venture all the way to Malibu to behold the classical beauty of the Getty Villa, the home of the incredible collection of ancient Mediterranean sculpture once owned by the oil magnate J. Paul Getty. It has recently been renovated however, and it is worth visiting now more than ever.

I love art, I love art history, I love art museums. But sometimes the way the art is placed, the way the stories are told, the way the cards are written, does not bring into focus a complex enough narrative. The world and our past are complicated. Nothing is linear, nothing is simple. So to simply place art in front of the date it was ostensibly created belittles art’s historical and cultural importance. So I am very pleased that the Getty Villa took itself to task and fixed, or at least attempted to fix, this very problem.

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Now, instead of galleries being organized frivolously (by “Gods and Goddesses”) the rooms and floors will now bare more of a chronological layout, ranging from 3,000 BC to 400 AD. They have also borrowed some new works from art museums around the world that attempt to fill in the historical gaps left behind when only including Greek and Roman sculpture, which ignores the influence of Middle Eastern, North African, and other Mediterranean cultures. Here are five new works you will now be able to see in this artistic villa haven:

1.  “The Beauty of Palmyra” 190-210 AD

She is a limestone funerary relief which still contains some of its original bright coloring. She is considered a masterpiece “both for the high quality of the carving and for the preservation of all the polychromy,” comments Kenneth Lapatin, th Getty’s associate antiquities curator.

2.  “Statue of a Victorious Youth” (the Getty Bronze), 300-100 BC

A shipwreck in the Adriatic Sea kept this masterpiece submerged until its rediscovery in 1964. The statue depicts an athletic youth in the style of Michelangelo’s David. Bronze sculptures such as this one are highly rare because the metal was often so precious that it was melted down for military purposes.

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3.  “Caeretan Hydria (Water Jar) with Herakles and Iolaos attacking the Hydra” 525 BC

This vase is peculiar because it depicts a classic Greek tale – Herakles is about to smash one of the snake-heads of the hydra while Iolaos threatens another head with a sickle – but the vase does not look Greek at all. It bares all the trappings of an Etruscan vase, a proto-Roman culture that flourished briefly in central Italy. The vase is beautifully painted and eccentrically local.

4.  “Frescoes from Villa Numerius Popidius Florus at Boscoreale” 1-79 AD

These Frescoes were in storage for years until the new curator, Timothy Potts, decided he should show off the Villa as it would have been back in 79 AD when Romans roamed the halls, entertained, and lived normal lives. Back then, walls were never painted monochromatically; they were always covered in frescoes. Now the walls at the Getty Villa look even more authentic.

5.  “Roman Statue of Draped Figure” 160-190 AD

This figure is seven feet tall and has a newly reattached head. It turns out that when the statue (well, the body) was acquired in 1972, the buyers believed the head to be lost. Only recently, doing research for this new huge renovation did Jeffrey Spier, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of antiquities, recognize the head at the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York. The Getty acquired the head and reattached, centuries later, to its proper form.

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