Many people are aware of the Getty Museum, but not too many people know that there are in fact TWO. While the Getty Center (the beautiful, gigantic white structure just off the 405) is one of the most popular museums in L.A., the Getty Villa, in Malibu, is the original “Getty Museum.” Located just off P.C.H., the Villa houses the Getty’s collection of ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. A multi-level and immersive experience, the Getty Villa is unlike any other museum found in Los Angeles.
Whether you have visited before or are just coming to learn about the Villa, not everyone is aware of its unique origins. Being that I live for interesting and historical tidbits, I figured why not share all that I’ve come to learn about one of my favorite museums in LA. So here are 7 little-known facts about the Getty Villa.
Hope you enjoy!
- Oil magnate and founder J. Paul Getty made his first million at the tender age of 23. Soon after striking it rich, he “retired” and became somewhat of a playboy. After a few years, Getty realized the leisurely life was not for him. He went on to create one of the largest oil corporations, Getty Oil, and become America’s first billionaire.
- The original Getty Museum was located where the Villa is today, just not in the same structure. An avid collector of fine art and ancient antiquities, J Paul Getty opened his Malibu mansion to visitors in order to share his passion for the arts. The Getty Villa, the structure you visit today, was constructed in 1974 just two years prior to the death of Mr. Getty.
- The original Malibu residence of Mr. Getty is still in existence, although it has since been converted into offices. The best vantage point for visitors to catch a glimpse of the exterior of the mansion is located on the outdoor second floor, just past the coffee cart, near the outdoor elevator.
- With four gardens and six fountains, the Villa offers just as much outdoors as it does inside. While these features may just seem aesthetically pleasing, the outside spaces mimic areas that the ancients used on a daily basis. From the fountains that collected rainwater for drinking, cooking, and bathing to the gardens that grew food and medicinal herbs, the Villa creates an all-around immersive and engaging experience into these ancient cultures.
- Upon leaving the parking structure you may notice you just don’t walk into the museum. In fact, you have to take an elevator up a level, then walk a path just to come to a point where you overlook the entrance. Why make entering the museum such a task? Well, that is because you are meant to view the museum as an excavation site. Just as they recreated the Villa to resemble the Roman Villa dei Papiri, the architects of the museum wanted to create a fully immersive experience for visitors. As you make your way down to the museum entrance it is as if you’re walking through the layers of time that have covered this Villa. The water feature located by the tour meeting area (adjacent to the bookstore) also reinforces this idea. You may notice that the water seeps from the wall, just like a real archeological site.
- Along with the different activities scattered throughout the Villa that allows for some hands-on learning (Reading Room, Timescape Room, and the Family Forum), there is a statue that the museum actually encourages guests to touch. Located just beyond the outer peristyle, follow the portico to the left. There you’ll find a replica of Antonio Canova’s Venus, better known as the ‘touch statue.’ Installed for blind or low vision guests, the ‘touch statue’ allows all visitors to experience the art of form and texture.
- Mr. Getty’s final resting place overlooks the museum. Yes, you read that correctly. J. Paul Getty, along with his two sons, is actually buried on the property. Of course, the area is restricted from the public so don’t go asking for it. But to get a general idea of where he is located, just look to the left as you are passing the entrance gate in your vehicle. He and his sons lay just atop the hill.