Frederick Fisher and Partners Frederick Fisher and Partners

The Getty Villa Reopens with a “Fresh Twist”

The revamp, spearheaded by Timothy Potts, the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, carves out an additional 3,000 sq. ft of exhibition space and brings works out of storage. The emphasis, Potts says, will be on the artistic qualities and stylistic evolution of the artefacts over time. But the Getty’s collection—housed since 1974 in this full-scale replica of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum—is limited to Greek and Roman art, and “classical art did not come about in a bubble”, he says.

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LOS ANGELES – Art and architecture seamlessly stand the test of time at the re-envisioned Getty Villa in Malibu. Working with Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts, FF&P created and redefined spaces that respect the civic realm and landscape of the Villa’s historic exhibits. FF&P worked with Potts on the historic renovation of the originally-designed complex by Langdon Wilson Architects (1974) which was previously renovated by Machado and Silvetti Associates (2006).

The Villa underwent this most recent renovation in response to the desire to organize the collections in chronological “historic” order rather than thematic order. In doing so, approximately 3,000 square feet of underutilized space was uncovered for exhibition galleries, allowing the team to find new homes for the Villa’s art pieces. Furthermore, art pieces previously kept in storage were brought out to breathe new life into the Villa’s exhibition galleries. 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 (336-30 BC). The centerpiece of this installation is The Victorious Youth (“Getty Bronze”), which can now be better appreciated for the masterpiece it is in the context of other objects of the same period and style, including a marble Head of Alexander the Great and groups of gold jewelry and luxurious silver vessels.

In addition to the challenge of maintaining operations during the construction process, FF&P coordinated the effort of upgrading the museum’s mechanical and lighting systems. Careful consideration and respect to the architecture helped to drive the redesign with little noticeable aesthetic intervention – a new mechanical system was carefully integrated into the east garden landscape. In the end, what was left of the museum was a seamless integration of technology, art, and architecture, which is perhaps the hallmark of FF&P and Frederick Fisher who, most recently, was described by the Los Angeles Times as “something of an invisible man” who “creates buildings that are acclaimed by their users but have often gone unnoticed by the world at large.” At the Villa, substance most undoubtedly reigns over show; a neutral color palette of navy and grey is used as the backdrop, allowing the art pieces to stand front and center. The same may be said now for the art as it takes the spotlight over architecture, allowing to complete the tag-team effort with previous design teams whose renovation sought to connect the architecture of the sprawling hillside campus.

The villa’s new space for temporary exhibitions will also host future installments in the series but its first show brings the classical era into the present. Plato in LA: Contemporary Artists’ Visions will display contemporary works, including new commissions, that respond to the Greek philosopher’s concepts, by artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Paul Chan and Jeff Koons.