Even as I enter the second half of my time at USC, I still feel like Los Angeles has a lot of sights I haven’t yet had the chance to experience. Although I have hiked the hills surrounding the city, gone on a few culinary excursions in the heart of downtown, and even toured historical movie palaces built in the 1920s (keep an eye out for my blog about that, too), I know there’s even more to see. During the school year I’m generally just too busy, but now that summer is here, my fellow Ambassador Leah and I have decided to try to get started on exploring our own amazing city! We began with a busy weekend in which we visited the world-famous J. Paul Getty Museum on Saturday and a number of other sights on Sunday which Leah wrote about in her blog post.
The Getty Center opened in 1997 and is probably the best and most famous art museum that LA has to offer. Best of all, it’s FREE! Leah and I knew there was a lot to see, so we woke up at 7 am and took a few metro buses over to the Brentwood area, where the museum sits on top of an 881-foot hill. An electric tram carted us and other visitors all the way up to the top. The Getty Center’s architect, Richard Meier, has said the tram was supposed to make us feel as though we were “being elevated out of our day-to-day experience.” We were certainly elevated – another perfect summer day allowed us to enjoy amazing views of downtown, west LA, Catalina Island, and the ocean.
Between taking in the views and unique architecture all around us, we were already wowed and hadn’t even seen any art yet. So we hopped on a guided tour that visited the highlights of the museum’s collection, which included everything from wall-sized tapestries and landscape paintings, to old beds that looked like couches (since people used to sleep sitting up), to 16th century paintings by Titian rife with symbolism, and famous works by Monet, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh (including the latter’s Irises, which cost the museum over $50 million). None of the artworks were behind any sort of barrier, so Leah and I enjoyed peering closely, but not too closely, at pieces like Rembrandt’s portraits and admiring the minute details you can only experience in person.
We also took advantage of an architecture tour, during which a guide highlighted that the stone covering the campus was shipped in from a city near Rome, and that Meier’s design was centered around a grid of 30-inch squares that blanketed both the exterior paving and walls of his buildings. The guide also pointed out the sweeping design of the entrance to the museum, which she likened to a person’s extended arms welcoming in the 1.3 million visitors the museum hosts annually. Finally, we toured the Central Garden, which is literally a piece of art in itself – its design was assigned not to a landscape architect but to artist Robert Irwin. Our guide explained how Irwin attempts to provide intimacy, draw us away from Meier’s looming buildings, and engage our senses with the bubbling stream, strong-smelling garlic plants, and floating maze of 400 azalea plants he included in his plan.
Having walked the Getty Center from end to end and absorbed all of its architectural and artistic highlights, Leah and I finally rode the tram down from the hill and topped off the day with two staples of Los Angeles cuisine – burgers from In-n-Out (where we exchanged “Fight on!”s with another pair of Trojans we spotted) and ice cream sandwiches from Diddy Riese. So ended another exciting day of sightseeing in our own city. Next on our list: hiking the Hollywood sign, visiting Venice Beach and its several miles of canals, and heading to the Getty Villa, another picturesque museum which houses ancient Greek and Roman art. Check back soon!