Category Archives: art

Tea at the Getty Villa

I’m more of a tea person than a coffee person. I especially love high tea.

Now before you start imagining me as some “Downton Abby” snob, let me explain.

I have made some of my best friends over an invitation for high tea. Nothing is a better antidote to a disproportionately testosterone laden job (most of us work in tech) than tiny sandwiches, delicate pastries, all served on pretty porcelain plates.

After living years in San Francisco, I had gathered a nice little list of places for all moods. It’s been more difficult to find similar places in L.A., simply because everything is more spread out here.

But one recent discovery is the Getty Villa, which has high tea on Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s served upstairs from the cafe, in a room that is frankly, a little sterile (the downstairs patio for the cafe is much more idyllic). But the food is wonderful, and the kitchen very accommodating in that L.A. way that I find both comical and endearing. Gluten free? No problem! Pescatarian? Of course!

Even if you have no interest in tea, the Getty Villa is worth a visit. The locale is amazing, and it’s a fun contrast to its sister museum, the Getty Center. The Center is like a futuristic fortress for a vaguely European millionaire/supervillian; all clean modern lines and epic vistas. It was used as the setting for the Federation in the last “Star Trek” movie!

But the Villa is like an Alma Tadema or Maxfield Parrish painting; a “cosy” roman villa, complete with gardens and fountains. All that’s needed are flowers for your hair. As for its bit of Hollywood history, it was used for scenes in Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra”.

If you go, be sure to call and make reservations, even if you’re just visiting the museum. There’s no entrance fee, but it’s fifteen dollars for the parking and spaces are limited.



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The Bone Collector, or the Missing Penises of Rome

After the previous post’s more philosophical ruminations on Rome, I’m going to bring it down a bit.

Let’s talk about penises!

See, in Rome, there are penises everywhere.

But a lot of them are missing.

On statues I mean.

It’s possible that they might be missing on the living people too, but I suspect that’s not the case. Otherwise the men would have been looking a lot more distressed than they did, and they seemed no more unhappy than the men in other cities I’ve visited.

Anyway, I found it strange that in a country that proudly owns and displays countless, beautiful, priceless works of sculpture showcasing the human form, that almost every single male one seemed…inadequate.

Turns out, the missing penii has a lot to do with a bout of religious prudery by Pope Pius IX during the turn of the 19th century. So, during that time, many priceless works of art were essentially vandalized, as the “offending” bits were covered with plaster fig leaves or lopped off. A mass-tracation, as it were.

However, I prefer to imagine that throughout the ages of the civilized Western world, there was a penis thief. A criminal with a penchant for geological genitalia, who stole sculptural dongs from ancient masters and Renaissance greats such as Michelangelo and Bernini, criminally adding to his collection through the centuries.

This collection, an awkward, yet undoubtedly priceless collection of dildos, passed on, generation to occasionally dismayed generation.

“Son, I have something important to show you. It’s our family legacy.”

[A father takes his son to the vault where each penis, some made of marble, others of granite, most flaccid, are stored and labeled.” Zeus” says one. “St. John” says another.]

“You seem very quiet, son.”

While no one went around replacing the missing appendages, it seems Rome has since gotten over its discomfort with at least hinting that “there’s something there”, if this mannequin at the airport is any indication.

He has no head, no arms, or legs…but hey, at least he’s carrying heat!


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The Getty Center, L.A.

Every time I go to a museum I love, I am reminded of one of my favorite books as a child, “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” by E.L. Konigsburg. It is about two children who run away from home and live in the Met.

It’s such a lovely fantasy, and could have only been written in a time before motion sensors and video cameras.

I went to the Getty Center in Los Angeles for the first time recently, and like those kids, immediately wanted to move in. It sits on top of the hills and there’s a special tram to take you there. This is great in two ways 1) There are no cars winding arduously up the road to ruin the views and 2) It builds anticipation; you’ve gotten away from real life and are in for a treat.

It’s funny how some architecture gives you a greater sense of space than you would experience when you’re actually indoors. I call it a “cathedral” effect, when being inside feels more expansive than being outside. The Getty Center, already palatial in terms of space, manages to feel even bigger because of its design. The walls soar above you, but because there’s nothing but clear sky above them, it’s like you’re flying, even though your feet are firmly planted on quite a bit of ground.

So, in addition to wanting to move in, I was also struck by an almost irresistible desire to start running around the courtyard, arms outstretched, with a floaty scarf trailing behind.*

The terraces everywhere give the museum an elaborate resort vibe, but instead of massages and magazines, there are paintings by Monet and pastels by de la Tour.

Oh, pastels by de la Tour! But that’s another story..


*But I didn’t. However, I am writing this blog post from a hidden stairwell.

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The Pre-Raphaelites were Hipsters

The pre-Raphaelites were a group of British painters from the mid 19th century whose subject matter tended to be allegorical, mythological, or classical. The paintings are all quite romantic in that no one smiles, and everyone looks depressed, especially when the painting is about love.

So of course, I adored these painters when I was in my teens. Because I was hugely unoriginal.

Right now, the San Francisco Legion of Honor has an exhibition called “The Cult of Beauty.” It features work from many of these artists, as well as examples of furniture, textures, and clothing of the time.

What is so delicious about this exhibit, apart from the fact that it allows me to revisit a part of my life I very much enjoyed, is that it is so obvious that the pre-Raphaelites were the hipsters of Victorian times.

For example:

1) They wore deliberately ugly clothes that harkened to an earlier era. In the pre-Raphaelites’ case, that time was either classical Greece and Rome or medieval Europe Now, it’s the 70s or 80s. I suppose pop culture had a longer shelf life back then.

2) They came across as unbearably smug and judgmental, even while accusing the dominant culture of being unbearably smug and judgmental. They had opinions about everything.

3) They were proponents of alternative lifestyles, which they documented rather openly. For example, one of the artists, Dante Gabriel Rossetti had a well known, long running affair with Jane Morris, the wife of William Morris. You can see Jane in many of Rossetti’s paintings. Now, we have Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, in which some people are extremely candid about their life and current activities.

So yeah, I guess everything is a reboot, including personalities.


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