Night at the Getty Museum

This Saturday, I spent the whole day (if you consider from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. the whole day) at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Since it was my first time going, I made sure to bring along someone who could give me a competent artistic tour through all the beautiful works. I don’t know any art history majors, so I invited my personal friend Carrie Graber, who is a working professional artist, to indulge me with her vast wisdom of all things fine art.

For whatever reason, I had always pictured the Getty as being smack dab in the middle of downtown LA. You know, like one of those Gothic looking anachronisms carved up in reliefs of gargoyles and graffiti. It’s actually located in a more rural area. You can even see someone’s small vineyard growing up the side of the opposite-facing hill as you take the tram up from the parking structure. Speaking of which, I’m impressed at how many people were at the museum that day. With all of our modern conveniences and entertainment, it’s nice to see that the arts are still alive and well enough to draw a crowd.

Apparently, the entire museum grounds is constructed out of Travertine Marble. You can even buy your very own chunk at the gift store. Since I’m on the topic, let me just say that the men working behind the counter deliver some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Of course I was with Carrie and I’m sure that she’s accustomed to men falling over themselves to help her.

Anyway, we started our walk exploring the garden area. The landscaping is finely manicured and the grass is as well maintained as the best greens on the top golf courses of the world. Families and nature lovers sprawled out on the greenery, reading books, talking or running around playfully. It’s almost like an elitist park. Since there’s an $8 parking fee at the Getty, the chaff are filtered out and decent people can enjoy the nature in peace.

From there, we walked around, checking out the exhibits. You know, it’s funny. I’d like to consider myself to be an artist. If not an artist, then at least “artistic.” Yet, I have very little art appreciation. We walked through the Nude exhibit and I couldn’t really see what all the hubbub was about. Carrie explained to me the rudiments of form, shape, light, contrast and composition. Now I won’t say that I had a miracle breakthrough and art appreciation flowed through me, but I will say I had an idea of what to look for.

After some time, we made our way back down to the restaurant on site. As an experienced restaurant reviewer, it’s a shame that I wasn’t on point yesterday or I would have had the mind to really review the place. Alas. Let me just sum up my experience and say that I wasn’t too impressed. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice enough. It has a breathtaking view and the ambience is a nice mix of minimalist decor and fine dining sensibilities. Service did its job without being sloppy or overbearing. I don’t know. I guess what puts me off is the price. $29 for a piece of bass over white beans seems a little excessive. Not that I’m a penny pincher, mind you, it’s just that my senses were not as delighted as I would expect them to be for a $140 bill for two people.

After dinner, we stepped out onto the balcony to burn a couple of cloves. We found that a fog had rolled in, making the outside oppressively cold. So we went back into the museum to look at more paintings. Carrie has a newfound love for a particular painting by Van Gogh that’s on display and she wanted to look at it while she was drunk. We sat on the couch in front of the masterwork and just stared. Carrie would occasionally murmur some tidbit about Van Gogh, like,”He only made forty bucks on any of his work.” or “He cut off his ear to spite a woman.” or “He used cheap paint.” The work in question is called Irises. At first glance, it looks like an unfinished painting, where the grades of shadow have yet to be added. By and large, that’s how I continued to view it, but for brief moments, I’d like to think that I saw it as Van Gogh saw it, hopped up on Foxglove and everything suddenly lit simultaneously perfectly.

The most poignant thing I saw last night, however, was during this last viewing of Van Gogh. A kid, maybe sixteen years old, walked the perimeter of the room at a moderate pace, glancing at the paintings on the wall. He came within a foot of the Van Gogh–a work that would survive even the very thought of this kid–and passed by, his expression lengthened by boredom, without so much as slowing down. That was a movie moment if I ever saw one.