The J. Paul Getty Museum In Los Angeles: The World’s Best Free Museum?

getty museum in los angelesFrequent travelers like myself can get very jaded. The more you travel, the harder it is to find a place or an experience that really floors you. It’s very easy to bang around from one place to the next, devouring travel experiences whole and then concluding that was nice, what’s next? But every once in a great while, some place or some experience will shake me out of that spoiled, travel-induced stupor and into that giddy discovery buzz that reminds me why I travel in the first place.
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I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those delirious discovery moments at a museum though, until I visited the J. Paul Getty art museum in Los Angeles last week. I appreciate fine art and photography but before visiting the Getty I’d never really been to a museum that I didn’t want to leave.


paul gauguinAside from their jaw dropping collections, the place is like an idyllic refuge of beauty and serenity perched high above a gritty and, in some ways, unattractive sprawl of a city. You pay $15 to park, but admission is free. After parking, you board an electric, cable driven tram system that whisks you ¾ of a mile up to the museum, which sits 881 feet above sea level. The museum’s designer and architect, Richard Meier, designed the place in order to give visitors the feeling of being “elevated out of their day-to-day experience” and the complex of modern white buildings, fountains and gardens feels very much like an escape from L.A’s gritty, noisy bustle.


getty museum family roomI was at the Getty, which opened in 1997, with my two little boys, ages 3 and 5, so we started our visit in the Family Room, where my sons made masks, drew, and lounged in a replica of a fancy 18th century French bed against the backdrop of replicas of some of the remarkable works of art we were about to experience. My boys insisted on wearing their masks all day and they left the Family Room in such a great mood that they happily let me wander the galleries and grounds for hours, feeling like little celebrities as loads of people stopped to compliment them on their masks.

The current headlining exhibition at the Getty is “Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance,” which focuses on art from the first half of the 14th Century and runs through February 10 (most of the same pieces will also be in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario from March 16- June 16). It’s an extraordinary collection of pieces from museums and churches around the world that’s never been displayed in one place before.

The last time I was in Florence I was 24, and spent more time courting Scandinavian backpackers than soaking up the treasures at the Uffizi and other museums, so the icons, paintings, stained glass, manuscripts and medieval books were all new to me. As was their exhibit of the earliest illuminated copies of Dante’s masterpiece “Divine Comedy.”

getty museumI’d never even heard of featured artists like Giotto di Bondone, Bernardo (Who’s Your) Daddi, and Pacino di Bonaguido before, but their works of art absolutely floored me. Seeing their ornate, colorful, majestic works of art, many of them created to honor their religious faith, and digesting the fact that they were created 700 years ago made me wonder if people in the year 2712 will be as moved by anything that’s being created today the way I was by these works of art.

We also lingered over some remarkable black and white photos of Chicago and Philadelphia from the ’60s, and really set up shop on the upper level of the West Wing, where we basked in the glory of the great impressionists and had a good laugh watching every member of a Chinese tour group dutifully pose for a photo in front of Van Gogh’s “Irises,” which the museum paid $53.9 million to acquire. Oddly enough, none seemed interested in another painting just steps away that I think is far more interesting: Paul Gauguin’s painting “The Royal End,” which depicts the severed head of a Polynesian man.

It was a glorious sunny day, and we spent time checking out the South Promontory, which is a re-creation of a desert landscape, and the Central Garden, which has a reflecting pool with a maze of 400 azalea plants, before repairing to the café, where we were in for another surprise: damn good food at reasonable prices.


view from getty museumAs we sat at an outdoor table, and tucked into some truly outstanding chicken quesadillas, basking in the warm sun like lizards and enjoying the almost-alpine views of pine trees and green mountains in the distance, I felt the bittersweet sadness that comes at the end of any great trip. I thought about buying an expensive T-shirt or coffee table book to commemorate what had been an idyllic day but decided instead to simply let the experience linger in my memory.

The truth is that I don’t just want to go back to the Getty some day – I want to live there amidst the art, the gardens, the vistas, and the wonderful cafeteria food. I don’t think I could afford the parking and the place closes at 5:30 p.m. each day, but a guy can always dream.

Note: If you have a Garmin GPS, don’t use it to find the museum, as it will get you lost in a residential neighborhood below the museum that won’t get you to the Getty. Follow the directions on the museum website. And if you can’t make it to L.A., check out the museum’s YouTube channel to get a flavor of the place.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara, SodanieChea on Flickr and the Getty Museum]

Van Gogh Painting Losing Its Luster

Van GoghVincent Van Gogh is famous for the brilliant colors he used in his paintings, but one of them is beginning to fade.

“Flowers in a Blue Vase,” owned by the Kröller-Müller Museum in The Netherlands, is showing signs of deterioration. Specifically, the brilliant yellows are beginning to crack and turn gray.

The museum stated in a press release that it decided to take two tiny samples from the painting and have them analyzed. Imagine being charged with the task of popping off pieces of a Van Gogh painting! Anyway, the samples were sent off to a laboratory that found that a varnish added to protect the painting after the artist’s death included lead that reacted to cadmium in the yellow paint to gradually turn the paint gray.

Even more worrying, the varnish seems to have absorbed some of the underlying paint, thus making it hard to remove without causing damage to the picture. Now other museums owning Van Goghs will need to check to see if this type of varnish was used on their art treasures.

Koen Janssens, who led the research team, stated that, “paintings by Vincent Van Gogh are not static entities for decades and centuries to come. Over a period of 100 years, they can actually be considered a fairly reactive cocktail of chemicals that behaves in unexpected manners.”

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

US Comedian attempts to show that there’s more to do in Holland than visit “coffee shops”



US Comedian Mark Malkoff is on a mission. After hearing a proposed Dutch law that would make it illegal for tourists to visit coffee shops in Holland, he embarked on a creative video mission: he would travel to the country and make a video series about 101 Other Things to Do In Holland. #65? Hang a painting in the Van Gogh Museum (and, apparently, visit the way cool museum restrooms).

Comedian and filmmaker Malkoff is no stranger to fame – he’s been featured on programs including The Today Show, Fox News, Jay Leno and Regis and Kelly as well as stared in a viral video where he visited and consumed purchases at all 171 Starbucks locations in Manhattan in less than 24 hours. Mark also achieved worldwide media attention by living and sleeping in an IKEA store in Paramus, New Jersey for an entire week.

So what do you think of his latest campaign, which includes daily video updates? Clever media stunt by the Netherlands tourism board or yet another portrayal of the ignorant American traveler?

See the Museum of Modern Art in two minutes

Ever visited New York City’s Museum of Modern Art? It’s quite possibly the world’s greatest museum for art lovers – harboring numerous masterpieces from painters including Picasso, Pollack and Warhol, among others. But it’s also quite overwhelming. If you’ve never been, prepare to be overwhelmed by thousands of different works across multiple floors, ranging from sculpture to photography to film and special exhibits. You will be exhausted when you leave.

That’s where this neat video comes in. Someone took the time to create a video montage of every single piece of art in the museum’s painting gallery in April 2010, collapsing the experience into a YouTube video just over two minutes in length. It’s a dizzying reminder of just how much this great museum has to offer. Whether you’ve already gone or have yet to visit, take a minute to enjoy one of the world’s great collections of modern art.

[Via Metafilter]

Get out and go: Events around the world (October 8-11)

It’s time to look at the festivals and events happening around the world, and this week has a particularly international selection of happenings. If you’re close and have time, then you have no excuse to get out and go!

  • AlbuquerqueThe 38th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta kicked off earlier this week and runs through October 11. It is the most photographed event on earth, as more than 700 colorful balloons from all over the world fly high in New Mexico’s sky.
  • AmsterdamVan Gogh’s letters’ exhibition opens on October 9 at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The exhibition Van Gogh’s letters offers a fascinating view of Van Gogh as letter-writer and artist.
  • MelbourneMelbourne International Arts Festival begins October 9. The festival is a series of cultural events by Australian and International artists and will continue through October 25.
  • Washington D.C.At the Green Festivals this weekend, enjoy more green business lectures, how-to workshops, green films, yoga classes, organic beer, organic cuisine and live music .

If you make it to one of these events, let us know how it was, or if you know of an even that’s coming up, please let us here at Gadling know and we’ll be sure to include it in the next “Get out and go” round-up.

‘Til next week, have a great weekend!