Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Getty Villa - A World Class Museum

Having lived in LA for nearly 8 months, I have been waiting for
" a world class museum experience." On Monday, September 27,
the hottest day (113 degrees) on record, I went to the Getty Villa.
My wish was fulfilled.

Getty Villa, September 27, 2010

Although The Metropolitan Museum
is my all time favorite encyclopedic museum, the Musei Capitolini,
designed by Michelangelo in 1536, located in Rome's Piazza del
, offers a special attraction on a personal level.

Musei Capitolini, Campidoglio, Rome.

Musei Capitolini, Palazzo Nuovo, first floor gallery, May 2009

Musei Capitolini, Palazzo Nuovo, first floor gallery, January

I am standing alongside the portrait bust of an unidentified
Roman citizen, dated First Century AD.
For those who believe
that as individual embodiments, we have experienced multiple
lives, this comparison serves as testimony.

So, what does this have to do with my recent visit to The Getty Villa?
I view the Getty Villa, not as a unique experience, but as one episode
of an extended continuity.

Many years ago, I was in LA for an American Association of Museums
annual meeting, and visited the J.Paul Getty Museum, as I believe it was
then called. My recollections are of a less sumptuous historical recreation
with fewer objects on display. This four-part video tour in 1985 by my
friend, Professor Bernard Frischer, describes it as I recall it then.

Now, one finds an extraordinary collection of Greek and Roman objects
displayed impeccably in elegant galleries of varied dimensions. One cannot
fault the Getty Villa staff on any level of professional presentation; however,
in the area of personal taste, I find the new installation of the Greek and
Roman galleries at The Met, renovated under the watchful eye of
Picón, Curator in Charge, Department of Greek and Roman Art,
be more to my liking.

The Met's renovated Greek and Roman galleries, 2007.

The Getty Villa's Geta Krater installation.

Overall, the Getty Villa offers distinct advantages as an experience. It is
not a museum where objects are assembled and displayed as cultural trophies.
It is the recreation of an authentic Roman villa in a physical setting which

provides a simulation approximating
the original experience. Artifacts
displayed here acquire an authenticity that can never be achieved in a traditional
art museum.

In ancient Roman times the Bay of Naples hosted a colony of villas which
served as playgrounds for the rich and powerful much as the area surrounding
the Getty Villa does now. For the Roman aristocracy, these villas served as
the settings for extravagant displays of conspicuous consumption and refined
living embodied in eating, drinking and philsophizing.

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