Getty Villa - History and Facts | History Hit

Getty Villa

Los Angeles, California, United States

The Getty Villa is a museum dedicated to the ancient world.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is a museum of Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan artefacts and works of art.

Located in Pacific Palisades, California, it displays a collection of antiquities from each of these periods in a thematic exploration of ancient life, culture, religion and even war.

The Getty Villa is itself a reconstruction of a typical ancient villa as well as including a reconstructed theatre.

Getty Villa history

In 1954, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty opened a gallery adjacent to his home in Pacific Palisades. Getty quickly ran out of space and built a second museum, the Getty Villa, on the property down the hill from the original gallery.

Getty believed that the art in his collection should not be viewed in a neutral or Modern-style museum setting and that it should be displayed in a building that evoked Classical traditions. Architects Robert Langdon and Ernest Wilson were hired to design the museum in consultation with Stephen Garrett and Norman Neuerburg, and they created a re-imagining of Herculaneum’s Villa dei Papiri, a Roman villa buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

As most of Herculaneum’s Villa dei Papiri remained unexcavated, the architects looked to other ancient Roman houses to complete the details of the new design. The building is grand, with Doric and Corinthian columns surrounding a landscaped courtyard with a reflecting pool, Roman-style plantings, and bronze statues. The interior galleries are equally opulent.

Between 1997 and 2006, the Getty Villa underwent a major renovation by architects Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti, seeing modifications to its site plan, landscaping, and buildings. The museum now houses only Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art, with the rest of Getty’s collection now housed at the massive Getty Centre in Brentwood.

Getty Villa today

The Getty’s mission statement is to advance and shares the world’s visual art and cultural heritage for the benefit of all.

Through the collective and individual work of its constituent programs—Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Foundation, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Getty Research Institute—Getty pursues its mission in Los Angeles and across the world. The Getty Villa hosts live performances in both its indoor auditorium and its outdoor theatre. It also offers special educational programs for children.

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 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.

Getting to Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades Malibu, just north of the intersection with Sunset Boulevard. The Villa can only be accessed from the northbound side of Pacific Coast Highway. There is paid parking on site.  Metro bus line 534 stops at Pacific Coast Highway and Coastline Drive, directly across from the Getty Villa entrance. Free Park and Ride services are available throughout Los Angeles County.