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Getty Villa

History and museums
sightseeing, history, culture, museum, art museum, art gallery

The Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA (though its self-claimed location is in the city of Malibu, California), is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty Villa is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD, including the Lansdowne Heracles and the Victorious Youth. The UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation is housed on this campus. The collection is documented and presented through the online GettyGuide as well as through audio tours.



In 1954, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty opened a gallery adjacent to his home in Pacific Palisades. Quickly running out of room, he built a second museum, the Getty Villa, on the property down the hill from the original gallery. The villa design was inspired by the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum and incorporated additional details from several other ancient sites. It was designed by architects Robert E. Langdon, Jr. and Ernest C. Wilson, Jr.. It opened in 1974, but was never visited by Getty, who died in 1976. Following his death, the museum inherited $661 million and began planning a much larger campus, the Getty Center, in nearby Brentwood. The museum overcame neighborhood opposition to its new campus plan by agreeing to limit the total size of the development on the Getty Center site. To meet the museum's total space needs, the museum decided to split between the two locations with the Getty Villa housing the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. In 1993, the Getty Trust selected Rodolpho Machado and Jorge Silvetti to design the renovation of the Getty Villa and its campus. In 1997, portions of the museum's collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities were moved to the Getty Center for display, and the Getty Villa was closed for renovation. The collection was restored during the renovation.

Starting in 2004, the museum and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) hold summer institutes in Turkey, studying the conservation of Middle Eastern Art.

Reopened on January 28, 2006, the Getty Villa shows Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities within Roman-inspired architecture and surrounded by Roman-style gardens. The art is arranged by themes, e.g., Gods and Goddesses, Dionysos and the Theater, and Stories of the Trojan War. The new architectural plan surrounding the Villa – which was conceived by Boston architects Machado and Silvetti Associates (who were also responsible for the plans for the renovated museum) – is designed to simulate an archaeological dig. Architectural Record has praised their work on the Getty Villa as "a near miracle – a museum that elicits no smirks from the art world.... a masterful job... crafting a sophisticated ensemble of buildings, plazas, and landscaping that finally provides a real home for a relic of another time and place."

There has been controversy surrounding the Greek and Italian governments' claim that objects in the collection were looted and should be repatriated. In 2006, the Getty returned or promised to return four looted objects to Greece: a stele (grave marker), a marble relief, a gold funerary wreath, and a marble statue. In 2007, the Getty signed an agreement to return 40 looted items to Italy.

The Villa is frequently and erroneously said to be in the city of Malibu, but the site is in the city of Los Angeles in the community of Pacific Palisades and has a Pacific Palisades mailing address. The Malibu city border begins a mile west of the Villa. The museum itself perpetuates this error, to the irritation of Palisades residents.

Facility and programs

Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but timed tickets must be obtained in advance via phone or the museum's website. As of June 2010, there is a $15.00 charge for parking during the day, but parking is free for evening performances. The museum is open Wednesday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and on New Year's Day (January 1), July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas (December 25).

The Getty Villa hosts live performances in both its indoor auditorium and its outdoor theatre. Indoor play-readings included The Trojan Women, Aristophanes' The Frogs, and Euripides' Helen. Indoor musical performances, which typically relate to art exhibits, included: Musica Angelica, De Organographia, and Songs from the Fifth Age: Sones de México in Concert. The auditorium also held a public reading of Homer's Iliad. Outdoor performances included Aristophanes' Peace, Aeschylus's Agamemnon, and Sophocles' Elektra. The Getty Villa also hosts visiting exhibitions beyond its own collections. For example, in March 2011 "In Search of Biblical Lands" was a photographic exhibition which included scenes of the Middle East dating back to the 1840s.

The Getty Villa offers special educational programs for children. A special Family Forum gallery offers activities including decorating Greek vases and projecting shadows onto a screen that represents a Greek urn. The room also has polystyrene props from Greek and Roman culture for children to handle and use to cast shadows. The Getty Villa also offers children's guides to the other exhibits.


The 64 acres (26 ha) museum complex sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which is about 100 feet (30 m) from the entrance to the property. Most visitors park in the new 248-car South Parking Garage, which is four stories high and set into a hillside. An outdoor 2,500-square-foot (230 m2) entry pavilion is also built into the hill near the South Parking garage at the southern end of the Outer Peristyle. The Outer Peristyle is a formal garden with roses and English ivy that includes a number of Roman sculptures. To the west of the Outer Peristyle is an herb garden. Beneath the Outer Peristyle is the Central Parking Garage. To the west of the Museum is a 450-seat outdoor Greek theater where evening performances are staged, named in honor of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. The theater faces the west side of the Villa and uses its entrance as a stage. To the northwest of the theatre is a three-story, 15,500-square-foot (1,440 m2) building built into the hill that contains the museum store on the lower level, a cafe on the second level, and a private dining room on the top level. North of the Villa is a 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) indoor 250 seat auditorium. On the hill above the museum are Getty's original private ranch house and the museum wing that Getty added to his home in 1954. They are now used for curatorial offices, meeting rooms and as a library. Behind it is the 200-car North Parking Garage. The 105,500-square-foot (9,800 m2) museum building is arranged in a square opening into the Inner Peristyle courtyard. The 2006 museum renovation added 58 windows facing the Inner Peristyle and a retractable skylight over the atrium. It also replaced the terrazzo floors in the galleries and added seismic protection with new steel reinforcing beams and new isolators in the bases of statues and display cases. The museum has 48,000 sq ft (4,500 m2) of gallery space.

The Getty Conservation Institute offers a Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation in association with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. Classes and research are conducted in the museum wing of the ranch house. The program was the first of its kind in the United States.

Architectural critic Calum Storrie describes the overall effect:

What the Getty Villa achieves, first by seclusion, then by control of access, and ultimately through the architecture, is a sense of detachment from its immediate environment.

Although not open to the public, the campus includes J. Paul Getty's grave on the hill behind his ranch house.


The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. Among the outstanding items is Victorious Youth, one of few life-size Greek bronze statues to have survived to modern times. The Lansdowne Heracles is a Hadrianic Roman sculpture in the manner of Lysippus. The Villa also has jewelry and coin collections and an extensive 20,000 volume library of books covering art from these periods. The Villa also displays the Getty kouros, which the museum lists as "Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery" because scientific analysis is inconclusive as to whether the marble statue can be dated to Greek times. If genuine, the Getty kouros is one of only twelve remaining intact lifesize kouroi. The Marbury Hall Zeus is a 81 in (2.1 m) tall marble statue that was recovered from ruins at Tivoli near Rome.


Detailed information about the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection at the Getty Villa is provided on "GettyGuide". This is available both at the Museum, at various points known as "GettyGuide stations", and externally on its website.

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