I enjoy living in a central location. It’s just a short jaunt to beach, mountains, or cultural events. Generally, nothing in Southern California is more than a three-hour drive, depending on traffic and weather, of course. When the opportunity arose to visit the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Getty Center campus during my Spring Break, I didn’t hesitate.
The Getty Center is the larger of the two museums managed by the Getty Trust. It’s perched on a peak in the Santa Monica Mountains above Interstate 405. When I had visited there before around twenty years ago, the museum had just opened. I remember newly planted gardens, expansive views from the mountains to the ocean, and endless galleries.
My day started with a drive to Glendale to pick up my friend, Elizabeth. The traffic was horrendous for a Saturday. But fortunately, the Getty Center is a short drive from my friend’s apartment.
The museum has a large parking structure that was nearly full when we arrived. Parking is $15.00, paid at a kiosk, but the museum is free of charge. Once parked, guest’s bags are searched before boarding the tram that takes visitors up the museum. It winds its way up the hillside through a young forest of coast live oaks and delivers riders to the north end of the campus.
Throughout the day, the museum offers programs for adults and children led by trained docents. We arrived in time to join a garden tour. Though called a “garden tour” it was guided walk through the complex with buildings, water features, and plants discussed. Most of the trees are still on the smallish side since they are still young.
On the upper campus, it was pointed out that there is an intention color scheme – lavender, white, and green. The jacarandas (pronounced [jakəˈrandə] as the name comes from Portuguese, not Spanish) were just beginning to bloom. In full bloom were rosemary, Spanish lavender, and white wisteria. In a few weeks, white and purple crepe myrtles will be in bloom. The colors stand out next against the backdrop of the dark green Italian stone pines.
When designing the museum, they selected the Italian stone pine because they are commonly depicted in Renaissance paintings. The travertine façades also link the Getty to the classical period as it is the same stone used to build the Coliseum and other great buildings of Europe.
The lower level is a sloping garden. At the top is a pool with water dripping down into it from an amphora shaped alcove. The water then pours into a stream that leads you down the hill and into the garden. The beds at the top are mostly succulents and grasses lining the sloping path until you enter the shade of the bougainvillea “trees” that divide the upper and lower gardens. As the footpath continue the colors change into a hodgepodge of mixed colors until you reach the Azalea Maze, an azalea hedge in intertwining circles in the center of the lower pool. The dark green leaves and magenta blossoms made for an impressive end to the walk.
After the tour, we visited the museum gift shop and had a snack at the café. Then it was time for the main event of the day, a program titled Selected Shorts: April Antics – Fictions and Foolery. I hadn’t heard of the podcast Selected Shorts, but the concept sounded interesting: actors reading short stories. There were four programs in total, I chose Saturday evening, because one of my favorite actors, René Auberjonois (Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Boston Legal), was one of the performers.
The program was hosted by Jane Kaczmarek, who was thoroughly enjoying herself. René was the last on the program, so before he came on we were treated to readings by Joe Mande, Kirsten Vangsness, Sharon Gless, and Justin Kirk. These performances were delightful and varied in topic and style.
My favorite of these would have to be between Sharon Gless’ reading of “Hat Trick” by Edith Pearlman and Justin Kirk’s reading “The Dummy” by Susan Sontag. Both stories, though very different in voice and emotional impact, were thought-provoking.
René performed “The Invisible Collection” by Stephan Zweig, an author and story I was unfamiliar with. The topic was perfect for the venue, an art museum. It was the story of an art dealer who visits an old customer of his gallery.
Afterward, we went lobby to wait for the performers to emerge. I had the opportunity to chat with Judith Mahalyi, René’s wife of fifty-three years, while waited nervously for him to appear. After he had greeted several other who had attended, including his daughter Tessa Auberjonois, he turned to me, eyebrow arched, “Tess?”
I acknowledged that I was. The smile on René’s face broadened as he put his hand out to me and announced, “My Twitter Pal!” (We’d been interacting on Twitter for most of the past year.)
With that greeting and handshake, my apprehension left me, I was no longer in the company of a celebrity but my friend, René.
We chatted briefly. I introduced him to Elizabeth. Then we wished him and Judith good-night and headed to the tram.
It was an enjoyable visit to the museum and good performance evening. I regret we didn’t arrive sooner so we could spend some time in the galleries, but they will be waiting for my next visit.
The Getty Museum also has a second campus in Malibu, the Getty Villa, where they house their antiquities collection. Admission is free; an advance, but a timed-entry ticket is required. Also, there is a fee for parking.
I highly recommend visiting either of the Getty Museums. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Until next time . . .
The door is always open, and the kettle is always on.