LAist visits the Getty Villa
Technically, it's in Pacific Palisades, but the Getty Villa — which reopens tomorrow — feels like it's a million miles from the PCH.
Newly added are a tall, rectangular entry (stairs. Lotsa stairs) and an amphitheater that faces the Villa. The entry serves to make visitors feel small and meek, but it also creates an almost tunnel-like experience that conducts them out of the traffic-y, hectic world below.
What struck us the most was this other-worldliness. People pay millions to live in crampy condos on the beach below; up here, with the Pacific glimmering in the distance, the sun shining, the grand garden spread out seemingly just for us, we wanted to kick back and wait for someone to bring us some bakalva and wine.
Going to the Getty Villa is a rare chance to, for an afternoon, live the life of an oil magnate.
The Getty Villa is full of ancient relics — some of which maybe shouldn't have left their home countries, some of which may not be ancient — anyway, it's full of hundreds of tokens of antiquity, from glass perfume bottles to headstones to pieces of painted ceiling to massive marble statues. The museum's wall text reveals just how much research has gone into these pieces: tiny details, like the angle of a statue's broken arm, can tell art historians that it held a musical instrument.
But for all that research, we found no discussion of class. Did everybody get glass perfume bottles? Who were the generals in the gear memorialized in marble, and who were their soldiers? What does it mean that one family carved a gravestone for their dog: were they rich? Were the beautiful things in the glass cases available to everyone?
It seems to us that if a museum is to replicate the home environment of ancient Greece, as the Getty Villa does, some discussion of how a home like that might function is in order. Because if we were just sitting there waiting for our bakalava and wine, in ancient times it would have been brought by a slave.
Then again, maybe it's unfair to quibble. Maybe, as the Getty Villa transports visitors away from their ordinary lives, everyone emerges high on the hill as an aristocrat, a landowner, an oil magnate. Maybe it's OK for all of us to imagine that we are the richest of the rich, in ancient or present times, surrounded by neverending beauty.
That is, until we get back down to the PCH.