J. Paul Getty started collecting antiquities (Greek, Roman and Etruscan art) in the late 1930’s, deciding to bring the ancient Mediterranean culture to life by creating a museum on his property in Malibu. He never saw his vision completed, but oversaw the construction of a remarkable replica of the Villa dei Papiri, a luxurious Roman residence in Herculaneum, Italy that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The architects at the Getty Villa referenced plans from other ancient Roman sites excavated in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae to ensure the integrity of design, including flowering plants and trees from the Mediterranean. Walking through the gardens is an olfactory delight; the variety of floral perfumes enhanced the atmosphere and tickled my imagination.
The Villa is a mirror of its prototype, built around the reflecting pool and main garden courtyard, open to cooling breezes. The scale and symmetry of the architecture is sumptuously elegant, but the real artistry lies in the details.
GrecoRoman culture was humanistic – focused on our ideal expression of beauty, culture and contemplation. The art was figurative, with sculptures and pottery featuring men, women and children or deities made in our image. This was certainly in stark contrast to the Aboriginal exhibit I just saw at the Blanton, but also different from modern depictions in many ways. I only include a few examples below, but the expressions on the faces of the figures were much more complex and nuanced than the smiling selfies we see today. The art and the gardens were immersive, seducing my body/mind to imagine a younger humanity – connected to nature, exploring the world, creating culture and philosophy – aesthetically oriented.
“Wonder is the feeling of the philosopher, and philosophy begins with wonder.” — Plato, (Theaetetus, 155d)
The Greek philosopher Plato is one of the founding figures of Western civilization. His legacy encompasses ethics, politics, theology, and poetics. In this exhibition, some of today’s most celebrated artists consider Plato’s impact on the contemporary world. Through sculptures, paintings, drawings, and large-scale installations, they respond to his contribution to philosophy—from defining the ideal to understanding the human condition—while fostering the ultimate Platonic experience: contemplation.
From the exhibit of contemporary art submitted for Plato in LA
“As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief and understanding to the perception of shadows. But let us defer the further correlation and subdivision of the subjects of opinion and intellect, for it will be a long enquiry, many times longer than this has been.”
– Plato, (born 428/427 BCE, Athens, Greece—died 348/347, Athens), ancient Greek philosopher, student of Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE), teacher of Aristotle (384–322 BCE), and founder of the Academy, best known as the author of philosophical works of unparalleled influence.