Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Getty Villa in Malibu

Since I was in the neighborhood last week I spent a day touring the newly renovated Getty Villa in Malibu. Built in 1974, it was designed to replicate the Roman residence Villa dei Papirir, which was remarkably preserved after being buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Getty built the Villa to house his spectacular collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. When the Getty Center opened in 1997, the Villa was closed for renovations. It took nine years and a staggering $275 million to bring it to its current glory.

The colonnade and reflecting pool.

An interior anteroom.

The loggia

Artisits' renderings of the original villa in Herculeum.

The interior courtyard and herb garden.

The East Garden with mosaic stair fountain and traditional bronze fountain in the center.

Detail of the Corinthian columns and fresco work on the ceiling. They just looked too new to me. What do you think?

I was surprised at the pristine newness of all of the surfaces. It was apparent that the architects and designers were going for authenticity of how the Villa would look when it was first completed in 38B.C. To me, it seemed almost too polished and pristine. I would have liked to see some patina added to the surfaces. I realize this shows an ignorance on my part. Expecting to see a film of age on anything historic is something that is ingrained in my sub-conscious.

In my defense - viewing the many ancient relics, statues, frescoes, and mosaics housed within the Villa it was almost a shock to the system to view all of the buildings in their virginal, untouched, condition.

Despite this incongruity it is well worth the trip. The view of the ocean alone is spectacular. The Cafe offers a remarkably tasty menu with gourmet salads a specialty - It is California after all. Parking is $8 and admission is free - however you must reserve a ticket in advance as admission is limited.


Unknown said...

I am planning a trip here end of September. I have not been since it was renovated. I loved it the way it was and am a bit disappointed in your comments on its "pristine newness". I wish they would have left it the way it was. Why do we have this obsession in this country to have everything so perfect?

Unknown said...

So glad you understand my distaste over the newness of the Villa. I do not believe that Mr Getty would have approved. Of course, it is very worthwhile to visit and is still a beautiful building, it just lacks atmosphere. I agree with you that sometimes imperfection = perfection.

Mélanie said...

So greek , so architectural . I hate perfection ..That's why I like that my antiques look still old and a little bit with marks of age ..

Pigtown*Design said...

Well worth the trip!

Leslie King said...

I just visited the villa, and totally agree, the pristine newness lends an air of cheapness. However, it was still totally worth the trip!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the freshness of the finishes seems a bit incongruous to our 21st century eyes, however I do feel it is nice to get an idea what the original villa looked like when it was actually occupied. To add fake aging to the structure is a difficult consideration - do you make look 25 years old, a hundred years old or post Vesuvius eruption and excavated? The criticism of it looking too fresh was also there when it originally opened in 1974 and obviously they have considered the question carefully and gone with authenticity over public nostalgia for the old ruined greek look.