Getting Getty

e gave ourselves a break from all the unpacking (mostly finished) and all the organizing (barely begun) to explore “the Getty.”

That is, the J. Paul Getty Museum. It’s a vast art exhibit housed atop what in the Midwest we would have called a towering peak, but which only counts as one of the “foothills of the Santa Monicas” out here. The collection, such as we saw of it, left us gasping — or was it the elevation above sea level that left us gasping? Alreading living half again as high above the all that nice oxygen we had grown accustomed to in the Old Country, we had climbed by car, by foot and finally by tram higher still to an altitude where the Santa Ana winds barely had enough O2 molecules to form a breeze.

Fortunately we forgot to bring cameras — they would only have gotten in the way of gawking — and so to illustrate this post I scanned an item I bought at one of the many Getty gift shops: a little notepad printed to resemble an Italian illuminated page.

It’s a tie-in to one of the numerous changing exhibitions: Faces of Power and Piety, a display of hand-written and illustrated books from the very late middle ages. There’s an example to the right. It’s a portrait of the guy who commissioned the little prayer book. I say commissioned because the work was done by a professional artist. No monk stuff here. We’re on the cusp of the Renaissance and folks with cash are starting to take over the art business. Folks like J. Paul Getty, come to think of it.

Well, there were lots of other displays — some changing shows, some more or less permanent — in the multiple venues surrounding the plazas and fountains and gardens. I won’t try to describe them any more than I’ll attempt to describe the campus. The place itself has been described to me many times, but nothing prepared me for the wow-inducing views of L.A. and the Pacific, or even for the audacious architecture. Another reason it was fortunate we had left our cameras behind. Photos wouldn’t capture the place any better than words: you’ve got to be in the place to see it.

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