As promised, a gallop through the Getty Center in LA. A place so large with collections so extensive that you must gallop, or at least briskly trot, to take it in within a morning. BONUS: Jackson Pollock’s famed Mural back on display.
I promised you a gallop through the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and a gallop it shall be. The place is so large and the collections so extensive that you must gallop, or at least briskly trot, to take it in within a morning’s time. Finally, yours truly gets around to it nearly a decade and a half after its opening. Mustn’t rush into these things.
His Grace (my husband for new readers) is not a big fan of Calder. How can you not like Calder? It must be an Iowa thing. He is from Iowa, which is relevant down the post.
In any case, the outdoors is as beautiful as the indoors.
You probably know the sprawling complex sits atop a hill accessed by tram, unless you have a coveted top-of-hill parking pass, which we luckily did.
Artful as the art itself is the compelling Richard Meier architecture.
… And the daring landscape by artist Robert Irwin. What we missed in blue skies on this late February day, we made up for in blooming azaleas in this water feature.
Reportedly there was a bit of ego clashing between Meier and Irwin in the planning. Shocking, I know.
This gal would have sorted out ol’ Richard and Robert, I bet. Or at least would have gotten them thinking about other things…
While this one would not likely have been bothered by either of them. Do you think she was really this thin, or Sargent just painted her this thin? I have a portrait of my 6-foot-tall (fabulous) mother, d’un certain age, who looks to be about a size 4, which in real life she would have outgrown by the 3rd grade.
This Sargent dainty was holding a cigarette when he painted her, though it was later painted out. Maybe that is how she stayed so thin.
A nickel if you guess this artist:
Currently on exhibit is “A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography.” She was the first British monarch whose life was fully recorded by cameras. I don’t know that she was all that thrilled about it, if you know what I mean. It is easier to be painted skinny than to be photographed skinny.
But I do not want to give the impression that being skinny is all that great. I gave up on it years ago.
This red leather folding album was magnificent.
Another current exhibit is that of Jackson Pollock’s gigantic, amazing, much mythologized Mural, which brings us, of course (you are saying to yourself), to Iowa. It is a long and rather juicy story (compendium of articles here), but Peggy Guggenheim, who originally commissioned the painting for her New York townhouse, gave it to the University of Iowa in 1951. (Another good article from UI Museum of Art here.) I love this photo. Look at the masterpiece just hanging up there like an old beach towel.
UI is well known for its Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but did you know it was the first university in the country to offer a degree in the creative arts? That is definitely an Iowa thing. His Grace is a UI alum, but not exactly what you would have called intimate with the creative writing dept. Although judging from his emails I wonder he didn’t minor in Haiku.
What is Mural doing at the Getty, you ask? It was there to be restored, a complex and painstaking process two years in the making. At almost 8′ x 20′ the dern thing barely fit in the museum’s freight elevator, said conservator Laura Rivers, who hosted us in the gigantic studio where the restoration was being done. Pollock had to tear out a wall in his New York studio to accommodate it. “It looks pretty big,” he wrote at the time, “but exciting as all hell.”
Well it was exciting as all hell to see it there and just be there with it — at the risk of sounding reverential — but it was.
Mural is now on display at the Getty until June 1. It will then have a world tour before landing back home at the UI Museum in Iowa City. Though at one point in danger of being sold to raise scholarship funds (with a value of $140 million+, it’s tempting), the good people of the Hawkeye State wouldn’t hear of it. Mural, it seems, is truly an Iowa thing.
Ah, now here’s something you won’t see when it’s hung in the museum: the back. All new and improved and permanent for the forseeable future. You can imagine the problems of warping and sagging with a canvas of this size.
I wish I hadn’t brought up “problems of sagging.”
While we are behind the scenes, as it were, the tools of the conservator’s craft are also fascinating and fun to see.
The notes pinned up on their bulletin boards say things like “In Rembrandt’s studio in the 1630s…”
Mine say things like “Get bikini wax.”
Exhilarated if not overwhelmed by so much art excitement, we were in need of nourishment. Joining us for lunch was the Getty’s personable and engaging director Timothy Potts, whom we had met and dined with a few weeks prior. It is comforting to know one’s behavior was not such that Mr. Potts was discouraged from our company in future.
Film producer and dear family friend Jeffrey Pill organized this very special day for us, accompanied by Jane Van Voorhis from the University of Iowa Foundation. Gallery Educator William Zaluski was our trusty and able guide. Thank you all again, so very much. And thank you again, Timothy, for that fantastic lunch.
If you go…
If you go, the excellent restaurant is a must. There is an informal cafe as well, and snack bars and such. You will want to make a day of your Getty visit in any event. I can’t wait to go back.
P.S. Bonus points: At our earlier dinner with Timothy Potts, hosted by the lovely Cynthia Spivey of The Water Is Smiling, we met Timothy’s friend the (also) lovely and gifted photographer Kathy Suder. Kathy’s work is being shown through August 17 at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, in an exhibit of subway photos entitled Underground. And OMG and I almost forgot: Years ago, Kathy, as a young assistant at Glamour Magazine, cooked dinner for her then-boyfriend, after which he proposed. What she prepared for him came to be known as “Engagement Chicken,” and her recipe and story–the recipe “worked” for others, too–were published and became something of a national sensation. Find the recipe and rest of the story here, on The Water Is Smiling. Just be careful whom you serve it to. I don’t think it’s an Iowa thing.