Firstly, the Getty Center and the Getty Villa are two different venues so get directions for the right place please! Not that I made that mistake, but I heard of plenty others who did. Also, if you arrive too early, then you will be turned away and asked to return closer to opening time. This I know because I did do it – I am known for over-planning so was at the front gate to the parking deck 15 minutes ahead of opening at 9.30am on a Sunday and was promptly turned away by the security staff. They did smilingly welcome us back again at 9.30 on the dot though like we were old friends!
2. When parked in the deck, head on straight for the tram that takes you up to plaza level on the foot of the hill to get started with your visit to this museum. The tram ride is kinda picturesque and a small part of me gets very happy knowing I am enjoying this ride while those drivers on the road are battling crazy traffic (Cue evil laughter in inside voice). Try to carry very little on you – the museum is huge and at some point, you will get tired carrying around a heavy shoulder bag or multiple layers. If you are carrying drinking water, make sure it is in your backpack or carry bag, as exposed food and drink are not allowed into any of the exhibit areas.
3. Speaking of layers, wear a few that you can peel away later if required. Visitors tend to forget that this venue is elevated and what feels like a pleasant breeze at ground level is a whooshing windy affair once in the main courtyard of the campus.
4. Yes, I called it ‘campus’. They do too. Make no mistake - this place is serious about its art. They have 6 buildings (each comprising multiple levels), 2 restaurant areas, a large courtyard connecting all of it that has two coffee stops, and a whole garden area as well. I might have missed a few things there in that description but all that to say this is a very large space you will be tackling so get ready. The struggle gets real very soon.
5. The struggle = which building to head to first, which tour to do, where to eat, and other similar scenarios. If you are a true planner and want the most bang for your buck, get on their website and plan ahead to strategize which sections you want to see and where you want to spend the most time. At just $15 per vehicle parking fee and entrance to the museum campus itself absolutely free, this is a pretty good deal. But there is No.Way.At.All that you are going to see everything you want in one day, even if you come in on the first tram and leave out on the last. I speak from experience here. Listen to the voice of reason.
6. For the best experience, either plan on heading here for multiple visits or make a trip for a specific exhibit and check the permanent exhibits on a later date. The current exhibit is London Calling and I made a beeline for that straight out. Its all on one floor level but covers about 6 different artists and if you decide to read every description, hear every piece of audio and also sit down to ruminate on some of the art, you will have to come back another time since that is all you will have time for!
7. Followed this up with the Drawing exhibit and then some of the Decorative Arts before having to call it quits for the day. Because there is only that much art your brain can take when you are trying to read and listen to everything. Some of the art has more in terms of descriptors and introductions that you can read next to each piece. A lot of the pieces have audio add-ons, which you can listen to by obtaining a self-guided audio tour at the entrance. Again, this is free and you only have to leave behind some form of ID, which you can collect when you return the audio guide.
8. They also have docents or museum tour guides and different options for tours based on topic and times. Easily factor in an hour for one of these tours. I opted for the museum highlights tour, which was about an hour long and covered maybe six pieces that the docent spoke about and covered 2-3 great viewpoints as well along the way. There is some stair climbing and walking to keep up with the group involved here so have that in mind when you decide to join one of these groups.
9. Comfort is key. Dress for your comfort, wear shoes that you can walk in for long hours at a stretch, wear clothes that you will be comfy in all day long, and carry your sunnies and a hat for a warm day or a second layer for a cooler day as well. There are plenty of seating areas if you want to take a break, indoors and outside, rest rooms conveniently located and easy access options via stairways and elevators. You could even simply sit in just the courtyard area all day or even the beautiful garden, which, by the way, is a commissioned sculpture in the form of a garden!
10. Also, beware! Stay away from the danger zones a.k.a gift shops. Well, that one is more a warning for me than for you but note that you have been alerted. Once you step into one of these strategically placed attraction points, you will be sucked in like a magnet and then there is no saving you, my friends. I wanted almost everything I saw in three of the gift shop areas, and one of them was actually for kids! Yes, there is danger lurking in every corner but if you stay strong and resist, you might leave without burning a big hole in the bank account. Or if, unlike me, you do not succumb to such seductions often, then, by all means, head for the gift shop and have a gala time. They have such cool merch in there, it would be too bad if you left and then regretted not getting a nice souvenir of your trip.
Bonus piece of knowledge – and I am proud I asked this because the docent said it was a great question (pat on the back for moi) – if you ever wondered about the frames the art was presented in…not all pieces are acquired in frames, sometimes the museum staff has to obtain frames from that period to go with the piece of art, and if it is a travelling exhibit, then the piece might travel with its frame intact. Who knew!
One thing is certain, I will be heading back again to the Getty Center, but if you have more gems to share with me or like to tell me your experience, maybe a piece I should watch out for, feel free to comment below.