Getty Center – J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The Getty Center is one of the two venues of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, together with the Getty Villa. While the Villa is focused on ancient art, the Getty Center is dedicated primarily to European and American art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
Buildings and site
The Getty Center is housed since 1997 in a large modernist complex located within a 110-acre site in the Brentwood neighborhood, on a hill overlooking the Los Angeles Westside in the Santa Monica Mountains area.
The campus was designed by the American architect Richard Meier, while its iconic central garden was conceived by artist Robert Irwin.
Along with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the campus comprises six other facilities including an art research institute with a million-volume library, the headquarters of the Getty Foundation, and a conservation center.
The J. Paul Getty Museum consists of six interconnected pavilions encircling a central courtyard and separated by loggias, gardens, and pools. This combination of architecture and landscape is one of the most important elements in Meyer’s project, as the New Jersey-born architect says:
“Throughout the complex, landscaping integrates the buildings into the topography with garden sequences extending beyond the enclosed volumes.”.
An aerial photograph with the Getty Center in the foreground and Downtown Los Angels in the background. Photo © 2000 J. Paul Getty Trust.
The circular entrance pavilion housing the panoramic lobby of the museum. Photo Maciek Lulko.
Panoramic view of the “central garden” designed by Robert Irwin. Photo Slices of Light (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
All buildings are organized along two axes which, on the one hand, follow the ridged topography of the site and, on the other hand, ideally extend the street grid of Los Angeles. Most buildings are travertine stone-clad constructions with a load-bearing structure made of steel beams and columns. The museum’s interior space is filled with natural light, entering through many full-height openings and regulated by a computer-assisted system of louvers and shades to provide the galleries and the artworks on display there with the correct level of illumination
Together with exhibition spaces, the complex of the Getty Museum accommodates a 450-seat auditorium, an underground parking garage, and various visitor facilities.
Overall, Richard Meier’s project admirably combines architecture and nature into a coherent whole: In a sense, it looks like the Getty Center was conceived as an “ideal town”, a calm and relaxing urban microcosm from which to look at the huge, sprawling city below.
Axonometric drawing of the Getty Center complex, image courtesy of Richard Meier and Partners Architects.
Interior view of the entrance lobby. Photo Maciek Lulko (CC BY-NC 2.0).
A panoramic view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center’s cactus garden. Photo Brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0).
What to see at J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center
The permanent collection on view at the Getty Center comprises paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, manuscripts, and works of decorative arts.
The painting galleries present works dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and mostly by European artists, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Fra Angelico, Carpaccio, Andrea Mantegna, Francisco Goya, Rembrandt, Titian, Veronese, Anthony Van Dick, Rubens, El Greco, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Nicolas Poussin, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name just a few.
The sculpture and decorative arts galleries mostly feature 17th – 18th century French and Italian works.
The drawings collection includes pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Seurat, among others.
The photographic collection is considered one of the most important in the world, with pieces dating from the mid-19th century to the present, including works by Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Rober Capa, Diane Arbus, and Richard Avedon, among others.
Finally, the museum holds an exceptional collection of European manuscripts and illuminated books.
Additional services and activities
The Gerry Center is renowned for its diverse program of activities, which includes temporary exhibitions, educational courses and workshops, talks, screenings, concerts, and live performances.
The center also includes a restaurant, four cafes, and five stores. Picnicking is permitted in the central garden, south pavilion terrace, and museum courtyard.
One of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s galleries featuring the painting “Grand Canal and Dogana in Venice” by Bernardo Bellotto, ca. 1740; photo Thomassin Mickaël (CC BY-SA 2.0).
A gallery dedicated to Spanish art of the Baroque period. In the foreground: a statue of Saint Ginés de la Jara by Luisa Roldán, ca. 1692, polychromed wood. Photo by Cultivar413 (CC BY 2.0).
The permanent exhibition of the museum also features a large number of works of decorative and applied arts, including this French Rococo-style paneled room dating to 1755. Photo by Rocor.
Exterior views of the J. Paul Getty Museum building complex. Photo Maciek Lulko.
A system of louvers and shades protects the naturally-lit galleries of the museum from overheating and excessive illumination; photo John Weiss (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Two images of the Getty Center gardens, photos by Martin Hapl, and vgm8383.
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