On Monday, my sister and I hopped aboard a Silver Bay (Morro Bay) tour bus for a day trip down to see the newly reopened Getty Villa in Malibu. The four acre place is listed as being in Malibu, but is actually closer to Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. On the other hand, maybe it IS in Malibu, because it appears that Malibu must be the world’s longest city, growing north and south for miles and miles on either side of the old Malibu pier.
The villa was built in 1968 as a recreation of a first-century Roman country home, the Villa dei Papiri, to house Getty’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. It was opened to the public in 1974. While the bottom floor of the old museum housed Greco/Roman antiquities, upstairs there were whole rooms of 18th century French Rococo furniture as well as an extensive collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Van Gogh or two. The place was always an improbable jumble.
Since the new, GINORMOUS Getty Museum in Westwood has opened, the non-Greco/Roman stuff has been moved there. The Villa was then closed for years of renovation and some add-ons (an amphitheatre and an annoyingly ugly cement coffee shop/gift store built into the side of the hill.) The collection in the villa, however, is now a wonderfully comfortable aesthetic fit. And with a $7-8 parking reservation fee, it’s open for business.
For me the trip was a case of time travel. When I lived in L.A., I used to trot up there when the mood struck. Parking was free, there was no entrance fee, all you needed was a parking reservation in the underground garage. Then you were free to wander around the beautiful outer peristyle, sniff around in the herb garden, poke your nose in all the galleries. It was pure bliss, and I returned often just to watch the seasonal changes in the gardens. Even a wet, cold winter’s day standing in the deserted Inner Peristyle and listening to the rain plinking down in the central pool had is chilly joys.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of ever seeing this place, it’s worth the trip, whether by day tripping bus tour or if you want to just get a parking reservation and head off down the coast to spend a few hours just driving through Malibu, Malibu, Malibu, are we still in Malibu?. Further information can be had at the Getty Web site at http://www.getty.edu/ (And while you’re at it, don’t miss the spectacular GINORMOUS Getty museum further up the road. Especially if you like French Rococo commodes.}