We feature spiffy photos and videos every weekday on Gadling – visuals with powerful color and crispness to make you feel like you were there. Today, we’re taking a break from the crisp and colorful to step back about 75 years or so. The J. Paul Getty Trust has opened up their collection of artwork for public use. Enjoy this throwback photograph of Greensboro, Alabama from 1936, and stay tuned for more amazing works.
Frequent 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.
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.
I 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.”
I’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.
As 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]
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that it would return 19 Egyptian antiquities that have lived at the museum for most of the last century. These artifacts, excavated from the 14th century B.C. tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (King Tut), include a sphinx bracelet, a small bronze dog, and a broad collar with beads, among other bits and pieces. Zahi Hawass, the former Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, argued for the artifacts’ return in November 2010, claiming that the artifacts had been removed from the tomb illegally in the 1920s. But, the instability in Egypt during and following that country’s revolution this year has delayed the repatriation of King Tut’s belongings.
One of the biggest arguments in the art world is the repatriation of objects, particularly antiquities. On one side of the debate are art scholars who feel that ancient objects should remain in the care of their current (usually Western) museums or locations. The other side argues that antiquities should be returned to the countries from which they were removed because they were taken during times of war and colonization or were stolen and sold through the highly lucrative art black market.
It’s true that a great many antiquities and works of art we enjoy at museums today may have been acquired through looting or other unsavory practices. Here are five of the most famous works of art that have been repatriated or are the focus of an ongoing battle for ownership.1) Elgin Marbles
Where are they now? The British Museum, London
Where were they? The Parthenon, Athens, Greece
The Elgin Marbles, pictured in the featured image above, are synonymous with the repatriation debate. Also known as the Parthenon Marbles, these remarkable marble carvings once fronted the Parthenon and other buildings on Athens‘ ancient Acropolis. They were removed – some say vandalized – by Lord Elgin, former Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, in the late 18th century and sold in 1816 to London‘s British Museum, where they have lived ever since. Authorities in Greece have been trying for decades to have the marbles returned to Athens where they can be reunited with other Greek antiquities in the Acropolis Museum.
2) Obelisk of Aksum
Where is it now? Aksum, Ethiopia
Where was it? Rome, Italy
One of the first, high-profile repatriations of an antiquity was the return by Italy of the Obelisk of Aksum (or Axum) to Ethiopia. Pillaged by Mussolini’s troops in 1937, the 1,700-year old obelisk stood for years in the center of a traffic circle in Rome until 2005 when the government of Italy agreed to its return. The Obelisk of Aksum now resides with objects of a similar era at the Aksum World Heritage site in northern Ethiopia.
3) Objects from King Tut’s Tomb
Where are they now? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Where are they headed? Giza, Egypt
As described in the intro, these priceless objects from King Tut’s tomb are set to be returned to Egypt next week. Egypt plans to install these objects at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, currently under construction and slated to open in 2012
4) Dea Morgantina (Aphrodite)
Where is it now? Aidone, Sicily
Where was it? Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The investigative reporting of two L.A. Times journalists was responsible for the recent repatriation of the Dea Morgantina, an ancient Aphrodite sculpture that had been a prized possession of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum, which takes a look at the repatriation debate and the flourishing arts black market, led the Getty Museum to return the stolen statue to its rightful home. The Aphrodite was inaugurated at the Archeological Museum of Morgantina in Sicily in early May 2011.
5) Hattuşa Sphinx
Where is it now? Istanbul, Turkey
Where was it? Berlin, Germany
Just last week, an ancient sphinx returned home to Turkey after years spent in Berlin‘s Pergamon Museum. One of a pair of sphinxes that stood in the ancient Hittite capital of Hattuşa, the sphinx will be restored at the Istanbul Archeological Museum before being returned to its ancient home approximately 150 miles northeast of Ankara.
[Flickr image via telemax]