Posted by: nastypen | November 3, 2006

The Museum is the Star

Yesterday, I went to the Getty Musuem in Los Angeles. The structure sat on top of a mountain overlooking the hazy skyline of Los Angeles, the boiling desert of California’s death valley, and the string of mansions where rich capitalists and celebrities live sighing of boredom.

I was driven by a friend there. We parked at the foot of the mountain and a train took us there. The train is not one of those rotting carcasses that run in New York. This transportation system reminds me of a slower and more compact bullet train of Japan; sleek, white and clean lines.

My friend, Rafael, had to pay eight bucks for the parking. That was it. The Getty Museum is for free. My pupils dilated with happiness. The architecture is fantastic. Richard Meier took four years to deisgn this and ten years to contruct the entire thing.

I must say the design of the museum is breathtaking.


I was all agog. Normally, I visit a musuem to check out the works of art. But this time it was the museum that is the star and not its collection.

We were made to watch a short film in a room about the musuem and its different sectors. There are guided tours scheduled for visitors. We could take tour about the architecture, or about the collections, instead we took the one about the garden of the museum. I have never been in a museum that put landscape architecture in a limelight. Normally, I hate gardens, but I saw how biomorphic the structure was; as if plants and slab were one organism.

A docent was waiting for us by the sycamore trees to conduct the hour-long tour. Actually, being a docent is one of my dream jobs. For your information, a docent is:

a person who is a knowledgeable guide, esp. one who conducts visitors through a museum and delivers a commentary on the exhibitions.

This silver-haired sexy bitch is our docent:

love her look.....very bohemian chic

She was telling us how the architect thought of everything, from the plants and shrubs being placed inside tub, to strategic placing of columns signifying the direction of a railroad track, to where is the exact central point of the mountain was. She was rattling on the choices of trees is intrinsic to the structure. Like why use this sort of tree because the foliage makes it look like it were a screen, not really blocking the view but enhancing the walls.

Rafael whispered to me “What was the architect smoking when he did this?” I had to laugh. Clearly, it was not a run-in-the-mill type of architecture wherein the client wants a modern looking building. The Getty’s materials are found in California and the starting point of the musuem is an homage to the greek ampitheater. This is where performances are conducted amidst the backdrop of the Californian desert landscape.

I think this is one of the best designed museums on earth. I like the way the lines, be it strait or curvature play with each other. the design may be a bit indulgent, but you cannot deny its beauty.

Look up and be at awe

This is part of the lobby’s ceiling. Natural light palys a very important role in the museum. All the paintings are at the top floor of the different sectors because the museum wanted to show to the visitors how the artists saw their art via natural light.

But the structure utilized its several square pillars as a framing device. There is particular one arch that if you stand at a certain position at a certain time of day, you are looking over a rugged hill with a house and it is said to be beautiful at sunset. But the arch makes it as if you are looking at a framed painting. I think this is fantastic for the architect to use several of these framing devices for the visitors to enjoy the landscape surrounding the museum.

Goodness, even the shadows have an artisitc effect on the building! We were informed that the placement of the shrubs and trees were not random but at exact coordinates so as not to let the flora interfere with the structure, but rather, enhance or blend with it. I forgot what the exact number was, but at one part, trees had to be something like x number of feet apart and must be aligned in a really straight line.

This factoid reminded me of a Calvin and Hobbes strip when the parents of Calvin saw him playing with building blocks and they said he might be a budding architect, but Calvin was thinking that he was a god controlling reality.

This musuem is proof on how an architect can get to play like god and dictate the placement and allowable growth spurts of natural things such as trees.

Cafe and culture, anyone?

You can even sleep on the grass, or roll on it. I dared not for my fat ass might leave a mark besmirching such a beautiful place. One of my most favorite part of the gardens was the cactus patch. I never imagined cacti can look so classy. Here’s a patch that overlooks a city choking on smog.

Thorny side

Of course, I just had to have my picture taken amidst these stalks of thorny plants. I was thinking, “Look ma, phallic symbols!”

thumbs up

But this is my most favorite part of the museum:

check out the reflection!

The reflection on the glass really caught my eye. I thought I was looking at a huge painting of a cityscape done by the likes of Egon Schiele. I thought it looked like the La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Spain by Antonio Gaudi. The docent confirmed this that the architect was inspired by the seemingly playful and irreverent spires of Gaudi, who I was told was like the unofficial patron saint for architects.

Here’s the Sagrada Familia, by the way:

someday, I'll drop by that place.

You may have noticed that I am gushing about the architecture and not the collection. The collection of the musuem is interesting. I like their collection of illuminated books of the Middle Ages. But, I’m sorry to say that the exhibited works are pale by comparison by the structure itself. the art works arequite few compared to the more extensive collection of New Nork’s Met or MoMa or Washington DC’s National Gallery.

I did see something great like this sulpture of Rene Magritte:

Magritte bends reality with his own hands

The musuem did have one painting that made me shiver all over. Yes, it’s a Van Gogh. this paintin I read about years ago that it was one of the most expensive paintings ever. A Japanense business man bought this one for tens of millions of dollars back in 1989. Incidentally, it was a time before Japan’s bubble economy burst and the Japanese had no idea that their economy will not recover for a long time.

But the painting is beautiful, no?

Vincent Van Gohg's Irises

I thought I was seeing a relic from my childhood when I stood face-to-face with this painting. The familiar and sweeping brush strokes I grew up with in admiration welcomed me as I stood there hypnotized.

I’m having art-gasms, people.  Hey, I just coined that now! Woohoo! Inspired?  See me smile wide like a happy muppet:

Woohoo!!! ART!!!!

Art-gasms, people, art-gasms.


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