Traveling the world as a museum junkie

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal photos

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Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to the Village News

Here is a money saving tip for travelers. With long distance travel becoming more and more cumbersome, i.e., airline delays, TSA lines, lost luggage, and concerns of international terrorism – this year why not travel around-the-world simply by stepping inside a museum.

It is an inexpensive way to be carried back to ancient times once dominated by the pharaohs, a chance to journey through centuries exploring Etruscan antiquities, through middle age relics, all the while headed toward the grand Masters of the Renaissance and later stepping through the looking glass into the wonders of contemporary art.

Just two hours away awaits a plethora of the world’s greatest art treasures. Many of the finest collections of international art – anywhere –  can be viewed by an easy drive north to the Los Angeles area.

The J. Paul Getty Center is in Los Angeles and the Roman style Getty Villa is along the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Malibu near Pacific Palisades. Both are different, yet awe inspiring. The collections are monumental with over 1.7 million items cataloged.

Once renowned as the richest private citizen in the world by the Guinness book of records, Getty endowed a great deal of his wealth to the State of California establishing two of the finest collections on the West coast.

The Getty Center sits high atop a former landfill along the 405 freeway past Sunset Boulevard in L.A. It is filled to the brink with French furniture, Renaissance master paintings and sculptures, European antiquities all in a contemporary setting. Housed around perfectly manicured gardens, the Getty Center is a jewel of the first order. Entry is free. Parking is $15 on property with a tram up the hill to the entrance. See www.getty.edu for more information. It is closed Tuesdays.

The Getty Villa in Malibu houses Greek, Etruscan and Roman Empire antiquities dating as far back as 6,500 B.C. The gardens are exquisite, the grounds immaculately kept. A timed, free entry is recommended, available online. Like the larger collection at the Getty Center, it too has a $15 on site parking fee. See www.getty.edu for more information. It is closed Tuesdays.

Not to be missed is a visit to the LACMAthe Los Angeles County Museum of Art. On just one visit it is possible to see collections dating back to 300 BC to current times. These collections are housed in multiple buildings and cover centuries of artifacts from around the world.

Recently,  the museum hosted a separate gallery filled with an exhibit comparing the works between Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera. The gallery was filled with priceless paintings, etchings, and even personal letters between the two artists. It was fascinating.

Additionally on view are two other rooms filled with paintings by Picasso in the Ahmanson building. In the Hammer building, one can find art of the Ancient World, Korean and Chinese art, with another pavilion filled with Japanese fine art. Contemporary pieces are in the Broad building.  These displays and collections are not to be missed.

Exhibits are changed regularly. It is a good idea to check out their website before planning a trip. Coming soon: a museum about the  Academy of Motion Pictures. See www.LACMA.org. Convenient parking is under the museum. Closed Wednesdays.

On another day – check out the (Gene) Autry Museum in Griffith Park for western art. Their permanent display houses over 500,000 pieces including oil and watercolor paintings, Remington bronzes, First American hand-made reed baskets, extensive cowboy movie memorabilia, plus a comprehensive western gun collection which includes Billy the Kid’s rifle.

The museum was co-founded by Jackie and Gene Autry (known as the “singing cowboy” and one-time owner of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team) along with Joanne and Monte Hale (a B-movie singing cowboy).

On weekends, there is even gold panning for the kids. Free parking is in front of the museum. The Autry Museum is across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo and www.TheAutry.org. Closed Mondays.

One of the newest museums in the Los Angeles downtown area is The Broad  (pronounced like road with a b – not broad like rod). The easiest way to visit this exceptionally beautiful museum is to reserve an entry ticket in advance by going online to www.theBroad.org. Entry is free. If a reservation is not made for a designated entry time, plan to wait in line about two hours standing on a concrete sidewalk.

Compared to many other museums in the L. A. area, this is a small museum filled with contemporary art. One need not even like the art form to be dazzled by this jewel.

Plus, it is only a block away from the Disney Concert center which is free to view the lobby. Paid parking under the museum is on a side street or across the street. Closed Mondays.

On the East side of Los Angeles, in the coziest part of Pasadena, sits the Norton Simon Museum. It is another private treasure trove donated to the people. On view is an incalculable collection of master works by Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, with Rodin statuary on the front lawn. On view are paintings by Picasso, Degas, alongside ancient collections of Asian art as far away as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Free parking. Visit www.nortonsimon.org for more information. Closed Tuesdays.

Not far away, tucked on 120 manicured acres, is the Huntington Library and Art collection. Be prepared to be amazed.  Housed in the original 32 room mansion is Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” and just across the gallery is his counter point, “Pinkie” by Lawrence. Clearly these two spectacular paintings are nearly as famous as the Mona Lisa. There is also a Guttenberg bible nestled amongst priceless artifacts at the Huntington.

Spring time is an ideal time to enjoy the magnificent rose gardens and desertscapes. Parking is free. See www.huntington.org for directions. Closed Tuesdays.

By searching each of the websites listed above, it is easy to plan an outing to see any of these amazing houses of fine art. After checking the Event Calendar on each website, it is possible to schedule around their special exhibits. Each museum has handicap access and some, for a few dollars extra, audio guides are available, plus free docent tours and lectures.  Many of the museums even have short films about their namesakes and/or collections. Most have café’s. There are over 300 museums listed in L. A. County.

Consider this year’s summer vacation carefully. No need to waste endless hours at an airport or even in queue at an amusement park costing hundreds of dollars – instead – throw a picnic in the trunk with the kids securely in their seat belts, and visit faraway places close to home. You, too, might become a museum junkie.

 

 

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