A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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The Getty Museum in L.A.

March 22nd, 2005

Zigzag Path between Buildings

Zigzag Path between Buildings

The Getty Museum in L.A. is an extraordinary place to visit. Although the art collection amassed by the oil baron J. Paul Getty is fabulous, it may be surpassed by the magnificent setting, which encompasses brilliant architecture and superb landscaping design. Richard Meier designed the Getty Center and wedded his signature modern style to more classic materials to express Getty’s roots in the past and belief in the future. To contribute counterpoint of color and texture to the complex of buildings, artist Robert Irwin designed the beautiful Central Garden. The Getty Center is a 750 acre site perched atop the Santa Monica Hills with breathtaking views of the city – what a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Visitors reach the museum complex by boarding a tram, which ascends the hill in a leisurely five minutes. Upon exiting the tram, you see a series of buildings made up predominately of travertine marble. One hundred ocean freighter voyages from Italy were needed to transport all the marble. Smooth travertine was used for all the flooring inside and out, while a special splitting process was used to produce a rough marble surface for most of the building walls. Meier uses a mixture of right angles and curves to produce subtle, playful, and dramatic complements. His use of glass is equally dramatic; the light and shadows produce an ever changing art form.

Central Garden

Central Garden

Another part of the complex that is alive is the Central Garden. A zigzag path heads down a hill towards the main section of the garden, and it includes several small bridges that cross a man-made stream. It is interesting that not only does your visual perception of the complex change as you descend the path, but the sounds are uniquely different as you cross each bridge. As you reach the main garden you are greeted with a maze of 400 bright red azaleas, forming bold circles in a quiet reflecting pond. On the south side of the reflecting pond is a a panoramic view of Los Angeles, while looking north over the azaleas, the serene reflecting pond is being filled with water from a waterfall with the towering Getty buildings forming a majestic backdrop. This tranquil oasis certainly captures every one of your senses, and is certainly a dramatic contrast to the distant Los Angeles.

Although you could easily spend the afternoon outdoors, the Getty Center has an art collection worth visiting. The art is exhibited in four separate buildings, each dedicated to separate art periods. In each building, sculpture, manuscripts,

Azaleas and the Waterfall

Azaleas and the Waterfall

decorative arts such as furniture, and photography are located on the first floor, while the second floors are dedicated to paintings. It is interesting that the painting galleries are illuminated by skylights with computer-controlled louvers. This allows the visitors to view the paintings in natural light as the artists did. The painting exhibits are predominately from the years 1400 to 1850, and include such masters as Correggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Cezanne. My favorite paintings were Wheatstacks and Rouen Cathedral, both by Claude Monet. Although both paintings were very different subjects, they were the same style. Each was painted with a dot technique, so as you viewed the painting from five feet away the painting appeared cloudy, lacking definition and focus. What is spectacular is that as you view these same paintings from fifteen feet away, the subject of the painting becomes well defined, and the areas of the painting that appeared cloudy now become a beautiful array of light and shadows…brilliant.

I loved the Getty Center; the architecture, gardens, art, and view all moved me. The next time you are in L.A., make sure to allocate a few hours to visit this complex, I’m sure you will find it very rewarding.

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