A few weeks ago I stopped in at the Getty Villa up in Malibu with two friends from the UK. It is a beautiful museum, and one that I will always be happy to take out of town guests to. It is more than just a museum, it is an experience. The beautiful tile work, the gardens, it is inspirational and the perfect context for their collections. The weather was perfect; crisp, sunny, with a slight breeze off the Pacific Ocean. This is heaven in California for me- the look and appeal of a sunny day without the perspiration! I was a bit disappointed that the pool in the back was drained for maintenance, but that did not stop us from perusing the gardens and photographing the fountains outside! During out wanderings, I had the perk of winding up my friend and fellow history buff with all of the Roman artifacts… a well known fact to all of our friends is that she thinks, “The Romans were WANKERS!” Fair enough, they did some terrible things…
Regardless, we can say that they made some pretty dope looking mosaics that decorated homes across their empires. Roman Mosaics across the Empire at the Getty Villa wants to provide a ‘glimpse into [this] richly embellished architecture of the ancient world’ as it says on their introductory panel. If you want more information, click on the hyper links above after you are finished reading!
The exhibition I feel does that exactly. It had humble ambitions, which I really do appreciate. Sometimes I feel that museums try to create these complex learning goals that are lost for the majority of the visitors, and even I myself only pick up on those almost ‘storylines’ once I come home and review the panel text a second time. Returning to my point, having a simpler goal in mid for visitors is not a waste, but can be ultimately more successful- don’t invent a narrative in an exhibition that is not really there!
Overall the exhibition had a fabulous color scheme. The deep red played off of the whites, tans, and oranges of the mosaics beautifully. The Getty Museums always pick bold and appropriate wall colors that set their exhibitions apart. The panels were, short, and designated the different regions in the Roman Empire by pointing out the different styles in the mosaic aesthetics.
The mosaics themselves were gorgeous. A favorite of mine and my friends were a pair of peacocks mounted from present day Syria (d. 400-600 A.D.) on the wall- absolutely gorgeous. I would happily hang them in my living room now. It is amazing how great art transcends time. The patience and meticulous work required to construct these mosaics is awe inspiring. Anyone who attempted a mosaic project as a kid or a parent with a child knows it can be more work than originally anticipated! In turn, some of the restoration done on a few of these mosaics was also amazing- look at how gracefully yet obviously it blends into the original work.
(On a side note, I don’t know if I would want to be the person in charge of hanging these babies- heavy!)
The exhibition was simple, and easy to walkthrough. Transition spaces between rooms had fascinating story panels and screens with media such as videos or slideshows playing. Not too much, but just right. Having the mosaics both mounted on the walls and laying flat raised up on the floor offers different perspectives for an exhibition that otherwise would metaphorically and literally be flat. In total, with some periods of prolonged stares, I would say it took us around ten minutes to walk through the exhibition.
Both my friend and I actually bought refrigerator magnets from the gift shop with the peacocks on them, and I brought home a new mug for my collection- I loved the mosaic pattern on the edge and inside bottom of the cup!
If you are in the area check out the exhibition, it is short and sweet… and will be there until January of 2018. If you want to see more photos of the exhibition space and mosaics, check out the slideshow below. Thanks for reading.
Peace and long life.