Towering over the surrounding area, the Getty Center is Richard Meier’s Modernist temple to high art, clad in acres of travertine, its various buildings devoted to conservation, acquisition and other philanthropic tasks, and its surrounding gardens arranged with geometric precision.
The quality of the exhibits is extraordinary. In the rooms devoted to decorative arts, you can see a formidable array of ornate French furniture from the reign of Louis XIV, with clocks, chandeliers, tapestries and gilt-edged commodes filling several overwhelmingly opulent chambers. The painting collection features all the major names from the thirteenth century on, including Van Gogh’s Irises and a trio of evocative Rembrandts: Daniel and Cyrus before the Idol Bel, in which the Persian king tries foolishly to feed the bronze statue he worships; An Old Man in Military Costume, the exhausted, uncertain face of an old soldier; and Saint Bartholomew, showing the martyred saint as a quiet, thoughtful Dutchman – the knife that will soon kill him visible in the corner of the frame. Elsewhere in the museum, photography is well represented by Man Ray, Moholy-Nagy and other notables, and there’s also a rich assortment of classical, Renaissance and Baroque sculpture – highlighted by Bernini’s Boy with a Dragon, depicting a plump, possibly angelic toddler bending back the jaw of a dragon with surprising ease.