Last Wednesday, April 18, the Getty Villa announced its completion of a major upgrade and reorganization of nearly all of the art on display at the Villa—primarily the Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities in the Getty collection. The Getty Villa, one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is located just past the eastern end of the Malibu city limit. To celebrate the reinstallation, the museum held a number of family-friendly activities and free tours last weekend.
Prior to the reinstallation, the Villa arranged its art according to themes, such as ancient theater, athletes and competition, and gods and goddesses. The new displays, installed gallery-by-gallery over the past 15 months, have now arranged the works of art by place of origin. The first floor of the Villa now has Greek and Etruscan art, and the second floor displays Roman art (both floors also have various special exhibits).
In addition to place of origin, the art is now organized by time period, beginning with the Neolithic Period of about 6,000 BC and ending with the late Roman Empire about AD 600. The museum says the new presentation now “allows visitors to follow the development of ancient art in Greece and the Roman Empire over time.”
Malibu resident Louise Zimmerman, a volunteer tour guide at the Getty Villa, explained, “Everything is now chronological.”
“The reinstallation allows visitors to follow the evolution of Greek and Roman art over some 6,000 years,” explained Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The arts of antiquity were deeply embedded in the culture, technology, religion and history of that time, and can only be appreciated fully through an installation that brings these elements together.”
Potts explained how the process of planning the reinstallation project prompted them to take a closer look at the entire collection, “which in turn led to identifying objects in storage that could be placed on view after many years, or in some cases for the very first time,” he said. The expansion of gallery space into underutilized areas “made it possible to feature a number of large and important objects from storage.”
With almost 3,000 square feet of additional gallery space, the new installation was designed to enhance and showcase the most important objects in the collection. New lighting, paired with casework of nonreflective glass, gives the art a dramatic look. The Villa has referred to this change as “ancient art in a new light.” Some technology was also upgraded, with new audio tours and digital enhancements that can magnify the detail of small, intricate objects like coins and jewelry.
A major highlight of the reinstallation is a newly renovated gallery on the first floor dedicated to the age of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic world (336-330 BC). The centerpiece, “Statue of a Victorious Youth,” a famous Getty bronze, is now displayed with other art of similar style and time period. The museum hopes the statue “can now be better appreciated for the masterpiece that it is in the context with other objects, including a marble head of Alexander the Great and groups of gold jewelry and luxury silver vessels.”
The new Etruscan Gallery features sculpture, vases, bronze statuettes, jewelry and carved amber. Other new galleries display pottery from Athens and an important collection of Greek works from Southern Italy and Sicily, including the terracotta group Orpheus and Sirens.
The Roman Treasury displays the Getty collection of Roman gold and silver vessels, figurines and jewelry, along with engraved gems, cameos, and two selections of Roman gold coins and medallions on loan from private collections.
In addition, a new first-floor gallery, “Classical World in Context,” features important artwork on long-term loan from international museums, representing the cross-cultural influences on ancient Greece and Rome, including works from Egypt, Spain (Iberia) and Phoenicia.
Highlights of newly displayed items brought out of storage include a group of first-century AD frescoes from a villa near Pompeii, which are shown in a dedicated gallery. Two large sky-lit galleries devoted to Roman sculpture now highlight a number of life-size and larger Roman works that were off-view in recent years, including the Statue of a Female Figure, which now has a head.
Other new additions include a life-size bronze eagle, several portrait busts and three ornate cornice blocks from a first-century Roman building.
The Getty Villa at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but a ticket is required. Tickets can be ordered at getty.edu/visit or 310.440.7300. Parking is $15 ($10 after 3 p.m.).