By Matt Cutugno
Los Angeles, CA, USA
The Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles, sits atop a hill like some Mount Olympus where the immortal works of mortal men are displayed for all to see, appreciate and love. The museum is more than collections of art from Picasso to Monet; it's an exercise in aesthetics. Its expansive grounds are beautifully landscaped. Short rolling, grassy hills provide running fun for kids even as its lovely gardens allow adults to stroll in natural solitude. And in clear weather the panoramic view of the Los Angeles area is a sight to behold.
Upon arriving visitors take a cable-pulled tram up a hill to the white stoned facilities. There's something otherworldly in the experience, as the sleek conveyance transports us from the everyday world. Our destination is literally and figuratively lofty.
Visitors might well be curious, as I was, about the man whose largess gave this amazing place its name and existence. I had of course heard of John Paul Getty. He was an oil magnate and scion of a prominent family. A bit of research reveals that he was a self-made man—his father, though wealthy, insisted his son work hard and so John Paul started out pumping gas. Still, he made his first million before he was 26 years old, and spent his lifetime in work and in the collecting of art.
The Getty Center
Gardens at The Getty Center
He was known to be a miserly man, once installing a pay phone in his Sutton Place mansion because he suspected visitors were making long distance calls at his expense. He famously denied ransom money for a kidnapped grandson.
He has some memorable, funny quotes:
"A lasting relationship with a woman is only possible if you are a business failure."
"The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral rights."
Getty allowed his Wilshire Boulevard home in California to be used as the film set for Norma Desmond's abode in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.
All of this, while noteworthy, is not what interests me most about this man. It's his casual philanthropy that strikes me as great. He was always interested in "giving back," and on a grand scale. The Getty Center is a billion-dollar complex, and admission is free. For any man to have created something like this museum for future generations is eminently praise worthy.
It was our former President, George H. W. Bush, who spoke of Americans who believed in volunteerism and charity as being like "a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky." That's a fine sentiment, isn't it? Nowadays the talk is of making our nation's millionaires pay more in taxes. Then our government takes that money and does good things.
John Paul Getty eliminated the middleman.