Getty in the skyHigh on a ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains, between Bel Air to the east and Brentwood to the west, and with the great 405 freeway roaring at its feet, the Getty Center is one of the most spectacular buildings in the world. It is massive, with wings of galleries and exhibition spaces and fabulous walkways, courtyards and gardens — too much for one visit, really. And throughout the gardens and surroundings there are scattered works of art, as well as all the treasures inside. There's always work from the permanent collection on show, as well as a schedule of changing exhibitions. David and Will went off to see 20th century photographs by August Sander ("Sombre," was David's verdict); Lily and I headed for Women of Art and Science, the big new show of flower and insect paintings by the 17th century team of Maria Sibylla Merian and her two daughters; and we all went to see Imagining Christ, a collection of mediaeval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts.
And it's all free — the only thing you have to pay for is parking, $8, in the centre's huge underground carpark, way down in the canyon off the freeway. From there you take a lift to the surface and then an almost silent electric train which shuttles visitors up and down the hill. The whole place is constructed of marble brought over from Italy. Plantings for this summer, I read, were all in blues, purples and greys. Stunning. It's always an inspiration being here and looking at the landscaping — there's so much you can do in a hot, dry climate other than trying to recreate an English cottage garden!
This was the first time I'd been there in warm weather, and we really appreciated the constant breezes and the cooling sound of water everywhere outside. The Los Angeles air was hazy, though, so the view wasn't too clear, but we could still see the skyscrapers of Century City (below). When we've been here on sharp, cold winter days, we've been able to see all of LA, from the sea to the city away to the south east.
Below is the view looking west, over Brentwood, where Australia's consul general has a house. The consulate is in Century City.This is looking the other way, to the leafy gardens and mansions of Bel Air — some of them even have what appear to be orchards or vineyards.