Thursday, July 2, 2015

Photo Essay: An Ancient Roman Country House...in Malibu?

The Getty Villa is such a curious place. For one, it claims to be in Malibu but it's actually in Pacific Palisades.



Although the sister museum to The Getty Center, it's really a totally different thing.



And because I thought it was just another fake Italian villa converted into a museum, I took my own sweet time in getting there. After all, there's just so much to see.



But once I turned onto Los Liones Drive off of Sunset Boulevard, parked, and started walking around, I realized I was somewhere very special.



At its center is the 1920s Ranch House, originally part of an early 19th century Spanish land grant. Billionaire oil baron J. Paul Getty bought the property in 1945, and immediately made major alterations and additions.



Everything that became The Getty Villa was built around that Ranch House, which started as a repository of Getty's personal art collection...



...and then opened to the public in 1954.



New structures continued to be built well into the 1980s, making the campus somewhat of a hodgepodge of new and old, and new buildings made to look old.



There's even a makeshift amphitheater, added during the 1996 renovation which closed the museum for ten years, during which time a lot of the other art moved over to The Getty Center.



The actual "villa" of The Getty Villa was constructed in the early 1970s...



...and was modeled after a Roman country house of the 1st century A.D.



There are familiar touches of bronze...



...and a central courtyard – the Inner Peristyle – lined with columns.



There, a parade of statues beckons visitors inside...



...where they will find various antiquities of the Greek and Roman eras, as collected by Getty himself.



But for me, the outside was really interesting – like in the East Garden, where water spews out of angry mouths...



...seashells line mosaic tile sculptural fountains.



So many faces stare out at every direction...



...so many faces, so very scary.



The villa's gardens were also modeled after ancient Rome...



...with a long reflecting pool, unfortunately now emptied of its water for the sake of the California drought.



The Outer Peristyle Garden also features plantings and figures cast in bronze, appropriate to an actual Roman home of ancient times.



Those bronze-cast sculptures can be terrifying, if you get too close...



...their painted white eyeballs glaring out in a state of shock or dismay.



It's a marvel in terms of landscape architecture, and worth a visit even if you never check out the relics in the galleries inside.



Then again, since it's quite possible that those antiquities were acquired somewhat dubiously....



...and the Greek and Italian governments are asking for them back, better go see them sooner rather than later.


Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Getty Center Under Fog
Photo Essay: The Getty Center, On a Clear Day
Photo Essay: LA's Art Deco Olympic Stadium
Photo Essay: In Search of Peace Awareness