Getty Villa to ‘Reimagine’ Itself

A classical room
Photo courtesy of Getty

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

The very word may offend classical purists, but the Getty Villa says it’s planning to “reimagine” itself early next year.

What this means is that while the Roman-stylized villa off PCH will largely be business as usual, some galleries will be closed and views of the lovely outer peristyle pool will be blocked off for a time by builders’ ugliness.

The Romans would have appreciated that: They regarded constant rebuilding as a moral virtue, and got so good at it that a recent study into the secret sauce of one of their greatest technologies, concrete, suggested our modern concrete is still not as flexible or resilient. So much for progress.

At the moment, the galleries of antiquities, some going back to the Bronze Age, are laid out by themes such as heroes or, as one recent visitor put it, “Etruscan hot chicks.”

This is a very 20th century way of thinking in museum culture.

A current buzzword, soon to be as cliché as “perfect storm” or “fake news,” is “storytelling.” But there are strong reasons to go backwards, culturally speaking, as far as the 19th century and re-arrange some of the rooms on a more narrative basis: to tell a story.
The reimagining will start next January and be complete by the spring of 2018.

Regular visitors will notice the difference immediately.

There will be a new gallery illustrating “the classical world in context.”
That could demonstrate how Rome sprang from the loins of illegal Trojan (in modern terms, Turkish) immigrants to Italy but still remained part of a bigger world such as Egypt, Persia and Anatolia. Even when it was putting that world to the sword.

There will be a re-creation of a home in Pompeii, probably more family-friendly than some of the most popular (and naughty) attractions in the real ruins near Naples.

There will be a larger family forum meeting space and a gallery dedicated to the Getty family legacy—which, like the Nixon presidential library in Orange County, could prove hagiographical or fascinating, depending on their selection of historical objects.

(I once had to file a newspaper story from a coin-operated payphone in a Getty mansion outside London, and I didn’t get all my change back. That is how billionaires stay wealthy.)

And if all that fails to woo there is a promise of improved Wi-Fi.

It will probably be more reliable than most other public places in Pacific Palisades.