J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, United States

The J. Paul Getty Museum, include the Getty Center and the Getty Villa, is located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles and features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs from the inception of photography through present day from all over the world. The original Getty museum, the Getty Villa, is located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles and displays art from Ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center features works of art dating from the eighth through the twenty-first century, showcased against a backdrop of dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and breathtaking views of Los Angeles. The collection includes European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European, Asian, and American photographs.

The Getty Center, in Los Angeles, California, is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The $1.3 billion Center opened to the public on December 16, 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum and draws 1.8 million visitors annually. (The other location is the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.)

The Center branch of the Museum features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and photographs from the 1830s through present day from all over the world. In addition, the Museum’s collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Among the artworks on display is the Vincent van Gogh painting Irises.

The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu features Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities presented in a setting modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy.

The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD, including the Lansdowne Heracles and the Victorious Youth. The UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation is housed on this campus.

The Getty Center
A unique destination, the Getty Center incorporates the modern design of architect Richard Meier, with beautiful gardens, open spaces, and spectacular views of Los Angeles. Unique design elements, beautiful gardens, and open spaces. Richard Meier’s Getty Center harmoniously unites the parts of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

When approached from the south, the modernist complex appears to grow from the 110-acre hillside. Two computer-operated trams elevate visitors from a street-level parking facility to the top of the hill. Clad in Italian travertine, the campus is organized around a central arrival plaza, and offers framed panoramic views of the city. Curvilinear design elements and natural gardens soften the grid created by the travertine squares.

The stone—1.2 million square feet of it—is one of the most remarkable elements of the complex. This beige-colored, cleft-cut, textured, fossilized travertine catches the bright Southern California light, reflecting sharply during morning hours, and emitting a honeyed warmth in the afternoon.

Meier chose stone for this project because it is often associated with public architecture and expresses qualities the Getty Center celebrates: permanence, solidity, simplicity, warmth, and craftsmanship. The 16,000 tons of travertine are from Bagni di Tivoli, Italy, 15 miles east of Rome. Many of the stones revealed fossilized leaves, feathers, and branches when they were split along their natural grain.

Natural light is one of the Getty Center’s most important architectural elements. The many exterior walls of glass allow sunshine to illuminate the interiors. A computer-assisted system of louvers and shades adjusts the light indoors. The paintings galleries on the Museum’s upper level are all naturally lit, with special filters to prevent damage to the artworks.

In the Museum, clear sight lines between interior and exterior spaces allow visitors to move in and out of the 5 gallery pavilions and always know where they are. Exterior courtyard spaces include fountains and a variety of trees, including Mexican Cypress, as well as the cactus garden to the south.

Enjoy art from the 1400s to today in the Getty Center’s four gallery pavilions. With changing displays of iconic paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, there’s always something new to discover in the Getty Center’s spacious, light-filled galleries.

North Pavilion exhibited medieval and Renaissance sculpture and decorative arts, and rotating exhibitions of illuminated manuscripts. East Pavilion exhibited sculpture and Italian decorative arts from 1600 to 1800. South Pavilion exhibited French decorative arts from 1600 to 1800, including elaborately furnished paneled rooms. West Pavilion houses sculpture and decorative arts of the 1700s and 1800s, along with 19th-century paintings and changing exhibitions of drawings and photographs.

The Getty Center protect light-sensitive works on paper and parchment by displaying them in rotating exhibitions. Find them in the North Pavilion (manuscripts) and the West Pavilion (drawings and photographs).

The 134,000-square-foot (12,400 m2) Central Garden at the Getty Center is the work of artist Robert Irwin. Planning for the garden began in 1992, construction started in 1996, and the garden was completed in December 1997. More than 500 varieties of plant material are used for the Central Garden, but the selection is always changing, never twice the same. After the original design, an outdoor sculpture garden, called the “Lower Terrace Garden” was added in 2007 on the west side of the central garden just below the scholar’s wing of the GRI building.

The Central Garden “is a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art.” Water plays a major role in the garden. A fountain near the restaurant flows toward the garden and appears to fall into a grotto on the north garden wall. The resulting stream then flows down the hillside into the azalea pool. The designers placed rocks and boulders of varying size in the stream bed to vary the sounds from the flowing water. A tree-lined stream descends to a plaza, while the walkway criss-crosses the stream, which continues through the plaza, and goes over a stone waterfall into a round pool. A maze of azaleas floats in the pool, around which is a series of specialty gardens.

A circular building to the west of the Central Garden houses the Getty Research Institute (GRI), used primarily by Getty scholars, staff, and visiting researchers. The circular library evokes the introspective nature of scholarly research, with book stacks and reading areas wrapping around a central courtyard. A ramp creates concentric paths, promoting interaction among the scholars and staff. A skylight pulls light through to the subterranean reading room. At the plaza level, an exhibition gallery displays objects in the GRI’s collection for visitors.

Two buildings to the north and east of the Tram Arrival Plaza house the Getty Foundation, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Trust administration offices. Sunken gardens, terraces, glass walls, and open floor plans provide fluid movement between indoor and outdoor space, and views of Los Angeles for Getty staff.

The Getty Villa
The Villa as it is located just east of the city limits of Malibu in the city of Los Angeles in the community of Pacific Palisades. The 64 acres (26 ha) museum complex sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which is about 100 feet (30 m) from the entrance to the property. The museum has 48,000 sq ft (4,500 m2) of gallery space.

Buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, much of the Villa dei Papiri remains unexcavated. Therefore, architects based many of the Museum’s architectural and landscaping details on elements from other ancient Roman houses in the towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. The scale, appearance, and some of the materials of the Getty Villa are taken from the Villa dei Papiri.

Gardens are integral to the setting of the Getty Villa, as they were in the ancient Roman home, and include herbs and shrubs inspired by those grown in ancient Roman homes for food and ceremony. A wide and light-filled view of the Villa Atrium, just inside the main entrance, which features an intricately inlaid tile floor and a square pool, with the far doors open to the Inner Peristyle and its garden.

Renovation of the Getty Villa began in 1996. The museum building retained its original design, but architects Machado and Silvetti made some changes to the site. The main entrance was moved, windows and skylights were installed in the upper galleries, and some new buildings were added to the campus, including a new parking structure, an entry pavilion, and a classical outdoor theater.

A visit now begins in an open-air Entry Pavilion and then progresses along a scenic pathway to the heart of the site. As each building is at a slightly different elevation, visitors experience different perspectives at every turn. The first view of the Villa includes the original museum building and the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, a 450-seat outdoor classical theater based on ancient prototypes. The renovation incorporated modern designs and materials, wood, bronze, glass, travertine, and wood, formed concrete that harmonize with the Getty Villa’s original style.

To the west of the Museum is a 450-seat outdoor Greek theater where evening performances are staged, named in honor of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. The theater faces the west side of the Villa and uses its entrance as a stage.

To the northwest of the theatre is a three-story, 15,500-square-foot (1,440 m2) building built into the hill that contains the museum store on the lower level, a cafe on the second level, and a private dining room on the top level. North of the Villa is a 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) indoor 250-seat auditorium.

On the hill above the museum are Getty’s original private ranch house and the museum wing that Getty added to his home in 1954. They are now used for curatorial offices, meeting rooms and as a library. Although not open to the public, the campus includes J. Paul Getty’s grave on the hill behind his ranch house.

An outdoor 2,500-square-foot (230 m2) entry pavilion is also built into the hill near the 248-car, four story, South Parking garage at the southern end of the Outer Peristyle. A 200-car North Parking Garage is behind the ranch complex. The 105,500-square-foot (9,800 m2) museum building is arranged in a square opening into the Inner Peristyle courtyard.

Four gardens at the Getty Villa Museum offer fresh air and tranquil spaces. Inspired by ancient Roman models, gardens are integral to the Getty Villa and feature fountains, sculpture, and colorful plants known to have grown in the ancient Mediterranean. There are four different gardens on the grounds of the Getty Villa, planted with plants native to the Mediterranean and known to have been cultivated by the ancient Romans.

Outer Peristyle – The largest garden is that of the Outer Peristyle, an exact proportional replica of the one at the Villa dei Papiri. The garden is 308 by 105 feet (94 m × 32 m), with a 220 feet (67 m) long pool at the center. In ancient Roman times, the outer peristyle garden would have been used to converse with guests and for solo contemplation. Replica statues of bronzes that were excavated from the Villa dei Papiri, the Roman villa that the Getty Villa is modeled after. Depicting famous philosophers, political figures, deities, athletes, and animals, they stand in the locations approximate to where they stood at the Villa dei Papiri.

The north wall features frescoes of landscapes and architecture copied from the Villa dei Papiri and another villa in Oplontis. Frescoes featuring theatrical masks on garlands strung between painting columns are copies of those from the Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor. The central reflecting pool is approximately three feet deep. At the Villa dei Papiri, it was used for either swimming or fish farming.

It would also have been used to grow plants, ventilate the home, and provide an escape from the heat. Traditional Roman landscaping designs are replicated with manicured bay laurel, boxwood, oleander, and viburnum shrubs. There are rows of date palms lining each of the long sides of the Outer Peristyle garden, while each corner features pomegranate trees surrounded by ornamental plants like acanthus, bay laurel, boxwood, myrtle, ivy, hellebore, lavender, and iris. Copies of Roman bronzes excavated at the Villa dei Papiri and elsewhere are scattered throughout the garden.

Herb Garden – Just west of the Outer Peristyle is the Herb Garden, the most functional garden of an ancient Roman house, where traditional herbs sourced from ancient Roman texts are cultivated along with a variety of fruit trees. In antiquity, these kitchen gardens provided vegetables and seasonings for cooking. Plants were also grown for their color, fragrance, and medicinal properties. It was common for the herb garden to have a well or pool for irrigation, drinking, cooking, and bathing.

In the Herb Garden, plants and fruit trees native to the Mediterranean region have been arranged in ornamental patterns and labeled with their botanical and common names. There are a variety of fruit trees, including apple, pomegranate, apricot, fig, quince, and pear. You’ll also find familiar herbs used in cooking, such as mint, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and sage. Papyrus and water lilies are planted in the central pool.

A waterspout of Silenos, a companion of Dionysos, the god of wine, hails over the central pool. The spout is a reproduction of one found in the atrium of the Villa dei Papiri.

East Garden – The East Garden is small and secluded, surrounded by laurel and plane trees. This tranquil space is shaded by sycamore and laurel trees. Its chief feature is an exact replica of the famous shell and mosaic fountain at the House of the Great Fountain in Pompeii, but there is also a circular fountain at the center of a basin filled with aquatic plants, around which the garden is oriented. Two fountains provide the relaxing sounds of splashing water—the mosaic-and-shell fountain on the east wall is framed by theatrical masks, while bronze civet heads spout streams from the central fountain.

Inner Peristyle – The fourth and final garden is that of the Inner Peristyle. Like the Outer Peristyle, a long, narrow, marble lined pool forms the centerpiece of the landscaping; along each side are replicas of bronze female statues from the Villa dei Papiri, modelled to appear as if they are drawing water from the pool. In each corner of the garden is a replica white marble fountain, and there are also several bronze copies of famous Greek sculptures like the Doryphoros and busts of Greek philosophers like Pythagoras and Democritus.

This garden is designed as a square-shaped walkway lined with columns, and featuring decorative marble floors, walls, and ceilings. At the Villa dei Papiri, the Inner Peristyle garden would have been the first open-air space encountered by visitors. The space would have been used for strolling and conversation. Today, you can access the first-floor galleries or sit on a bench and enjoy the atmosphere.

Statues of young women surround a small pool in the center of the courtyard. These statues are reproductions of ancient bronze sculptures found at the Villa dei Papiri, as are the four busts. The Ionic columns that form the colonnade are modeled after those in the House of the Colored Capitals in Pompeii, while the square marble fountains in the corners are re-created from a drawing in an eighteenth-century excavation report of the Villa dei Papiri.

The design of the coffered ceiling imitates decorative stonework on funerary monuments from the Street of the Tombs in Pompeii. The walls feature panels that represent stonework and pilasters; the design is based on the large peristyle of the House of the Faun in Pompeii.

Floor 1: Greek and Etruscan – Ancient Art in Context
Home to the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection, the Getty Villa invites you to experience ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art in an intimate setting that recreates a first-century Roman villa. The galleries are organized to illustrate the development of art among the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean over time.

On the first floor, enjoy Greek art from the Neolithic and Bronze Age—including some of the oldest and rarest objects in the collection—to the Hellenistic period, when the Greeks developed the first fully naturalistic vision of the human figure. Other galleries explore the fascinating world of the ancient Etruscans and offer context around the Villa itself, exploring J. Paul Getty’s collecting habits and reasons for creating the Museum.

Floor 2: Roman
The Villa galleries invite you to explore how styles, subjects, and techniques of art evolved across cultures and times in the ancient world. The journey continues on the second floor with sculpture, jewelry, glassware, mummy portraits, and many other works of art from the Roman Empire.

The collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum comprises Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity; European art—including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts—from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century; and international photography from its inception to the present day.

J. Paul Getty started acquiring antiquities in Rome in 1939 and subsequently built an important collection concentrating on Greek and Roman marble statues and reliefs, bronze statuettes, and mosaics. These works were kept in his Malibu ranch house and made available for public viewing beginning in 1954, but the growth of the collection called for a larger space, leading him to design and construct a full-scale replica of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum. The new museum opened in 1974, and Getty felt the need to expand the scope of its displays, adding ancient Roman frescoes, Greek painted pottery, and other objects. After his death in 1976, museum curators added significantly to the collection, which now includes important Greek vases, engraved gems, Romano-Egyptian mummy portraits, ancient glass, carved ambers, silver vessels, and gold jewelry.

The earliest objects are Neolithic clay figurines, dating back to the sixth millennium BC, and marble vessels and figurines from the Cycladic islands and Cyprus, dating from the Bronze Age. There are also significant holdings of Greek bronzework, sculpture from southern Italy, and an original Greek bronze statue of the Hellenistic period known as The Victorious Youth.

Almost all the great artists of the past—painters, sculptors, printmakers, architects—employed drawing as an integral part of their creative process. Using it to explore rough ideas, to study nature and the human figure, and also as an end in itself, artists created works on paper of extraordinary power and immediacy. The Getty Museum’s collection of drawings began with the purchase of a single work by Rembrandt in 1981 and has grown to over 900 drawings and pastels from the 15th to the 19th centuries. From spontaneous sketches to carefully crafted compositions, these compelling sheets demonstrate an array of techniques, materials, and uses, revealing the multifaceted and dynamic nature of the practice and its central role in artistic endeavor.

Drawings and pastels are fragile and susceptible to damage by overexposure to light, and therefore works from the collection are displayed on a rotating basis in thematic exhibitions at the Getty Museum and in national and international loan exhibitions. Drawings not currently on display can be viewed online or seen by appointment in the Drawings Department study room (see details below).

The Department of Manuscripts was established in 1983 with the acquisition of one of the finest private collections in the world, assembled by Peter and Irene Ludwig of Aachen, Germany. Since then, the Museum has built an expansive and balanced representation of the art form, with holdings totaling over 200 complete books and individual leaves that span the ninth to sixteenth centuries. Featuring exceptional European illuminations—including Ottonian, Romanesque, Gothic, International Style, and Renaissance examples—the collection also contains a small but important group of Byzantine, Armenian, and Ethiopian objects.

Illuminated manuscripts are sensitive to light and are displayed for short periods of time in rotating exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection at the Getty Center. The Getty Museum also presents large-scale international loan exhibitions of manuscripts as a part of their special exhibitions program.

The Paintings collection encompasses over 400 notable European paintings produced before 1900. While its parameters reflect J. Paul Getty’s own interests, in the decades following his death in 1976 the collection expanded considerably beyond his predilection for Italian Renaissance and seventeenth–century Dutch and Flemish painting to include major examples of early Italian and Netherlandish painting, eighteenth– and nineteenth–century French painting, and the Spanish and German schools. Among the best–known works are Pontormo’s Portrait of a Halberdier, Orazio Gentileschi’s Danaë, Rembrandt’s An Old Man in Military Costume, Turner’s Modern Rome, Manet’s Jeanne (Spring), and Van Gogh’s Irises. Early paintings by Rembrandt (1628–34), as well as works by Rubens, Jacques‑Louis David, Monet, and Degas comprise areas of depth. The Department of Paintings continues to expand its holdings through selective acquisitions and gifts.

The collection is displayed in the skylit second–floor galleries of the Getty Museum and in conjunction with sculpture and decorative art on the plaza level.

The Department of Photographs was established in 1984 with the acquisition of several of the most important private collections in the world, including those of Bruno Bischofberger, Arnold Crane, Volker Kahmen/Georg Heusch, and Samuel Wagstaff, Jr. Through a continuing program of acquisitions by purchase and donation, the Getty Museum has assembled the finest and most comprehensive corpus of photographs on the West Coast.

The collection is particularly rich in works dating from the time of photography’s invention in England and France in the late 1830s and early 1840s. International in scope, it encompasses substantial holdings by some of the most significant masters of the twentieth century active in Europe, the United States, South America, Asia, and Africa. Notable among artists represented are William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, August Sander, and Robert Mapplethorpe. The collection is also the only curatorial area in the Museum that extends into the twenty-first century with contemporary acquisitions.

For conservation purposes, photographs cannot be kept on permanent display. Rotating exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection and supplemented by international loans are on view in the galleries of the Center for Photographs at the Getty Center.

Sculpture & Decorative Arts
The Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts oversees a rich collection of nearly 1,700 objects, spanning from the late-12th to mid-20th centuries. The European decorative arts holdings, which J. Paul Getty began acquiring in the 1930s, count among the world’s finest for their quality, rarity, and historical interest. Of particular importance are objects created in France under the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. The decorative arts collection also features premier examples of furniture, silver, ceramics, glass, textiles, clocks, and gilt bronzes that date from the Renaissance to the early 1800s, as well as medieval and Renaissance stained glass.

Established in 1984, the European sculpture collection has grown significantly to include rare masterpieces made from the Middle Ages through the early 1900s. This ensemble was enriched in 2004 by a generous donation from Fran and Ray Stark, comprising of 28 pieces by prominent artists of the 20th century.

The department’s holdings can be viewed mostly on the plaza level of the Museum’s permanent galleries, with a few pieces on the second level. The majority of the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Collection is exhibited at the lower tram station and at the top of the hill around the Getty Center.