Prepared to be wowed! The Getty Center & Museum is home to stunning architecture, world-famous art (including Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces), beautiful sculptures, and magnificent gardens. It’s no surprise to us that millions of people visit here every year from around the world.
The Getty Center sits on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, just off the San Diego Freeway, about 12 miles northwest of downtown L.A. It has a completely different fee to its older sister museum, Getty Villa, which sits in a narrow canyon on the Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. Architecturally, the Getty Center is one of the most stunning museums we’ve ever seen. It was designed by NY architect Richard Meier, who built the entire museum based on the number 30. The walls, windows, floors, and exterior paving are organized in a grid composed of 30-inch squares. Why is everything in multiples of 30? No one knows… and he’s not telling!
Visitors access the Getty Center via a short electric cable-driven tram from the main parking area to the top of the hill. There’s a lot to see, so plan on spending a full day exploring this wonderful museum and lush landscaped grounds. Admission is free.
Getty Museum Art Galleries
Admire art featured in the Museum’s current exhibition and its permanent collection. Getty Center’s galleries are housed in the Museum’s five exhibition pavilions: East Pavilion, South Pavilion, West Pavilion and North Pavilion.
View Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Manet, Cezanne, Degas and Pissaro, as well as European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, antiquities, photographs, sculptures and decorative arts. One of our favorites is Van Gogh’s “Irises” (lilacs, roses, oleanders and other flowers). The famous painting depicts the garden of the hospital where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last months of his life in Saint-Remy, France. His work was influenced by the strong outlines and unconventional coloring of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Another of our favorites is Claude Monet’s “Sunrise at Sea” portraying the port of Le Havre on the northern coast of France This was one of Monet’s first Impressionist works.
Getty Center Tours – Art, Garden and Architectural Tours
We highly recommend you take a few tours if you have the time. Tours are complimentary, informative and fun! During a recent visit, we enjoyed the outdoor Architecture Tour and Garden Tour (both 45-minute tours). Other tours include the Collection Tour, and Curator’s Gallery Tour. All tours are first come, fist served. Visit Getty Museum’s website for more info on tours and schedules.
Getty Center Gardens
Wait until you see Getty’s beautiful Central Garden, designed to change with the seasons. The gardens and grounds are filled with everything from Sycamore Trees, Pepper Trees (similar to Weeping Willows), and Pomegranate Trees, to Birds of Paradise and beautiful arbors of Bougainvillea. At the bottom of the Central Garden sits a spectacular maze of red, pink and white Azaleas, surrounded by a reflecting pool and a series of specialty gardens. Garden Tours are offered daily.
If you like cactus (it’s our favorite), the Cactus Garden is a must-see. It offers spectacular panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, San Gabriel mountains, Catalina Island, and the Pacific Ocean. The garden is located between the Museum’s East and West Pavilions. Visit the Cactus Garden at your own pace or enjoy an informative 45-minute complimentary tour of the Getty Center. The Architecture Tour includes a visit to the Cactus Garden.
View sculptures by modern artists in the Sculpture Garden, located above the main parking structure next to the Lower Tram Station.
Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Terrace and Sculpture Garden
The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Terrace & Sculpture Garden are located outdoors near the Museum’s West Pavilion. During our last visit, we admired its five bronze sculptures by Rodin, Magritte, Malloil, Arp, Noguchi. Our favorite is the “Delusions of Grandeur” (1968) by Rene Magritte. It makes a fun photo, especially if you stand behind it and wave. The Sculpture Garden also includes pieces by Joan Miro and Alexander Calder.
Relax in the Museum’s Courtyard and admire its unique architecture and magnificent fountains. The South Pavilion’s (upper level) outdoor deck space features a beautiful rectangular Birds of Paradise Garden. We’ve never seen so many Birds of Paradise and Hummingbirds in one place before. It’s truly a magical moment. From the deck you can also enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains, Bel Air, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, downtown LA, Century City, Santa Ana Mountains, and Westwood.
No doubt you’ll work up an appetite during your visit. Dine at The Restaurant (indoor and outdoor seating), self-service Cafe, Garden Terrace Cafe (dine al fresco, overlooking the Central Garden), or bring your own food and enjoy a picnic lunch.