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Arts endowment of Los Angeles


Does the idea of “Los Angeles culture” seem to give you the impression that it ought to have everything to do with the movies? In fact, do you consider the Universal Studio itself to be a museum of a sort? There is no avoiding it — Los Angeles feels, on first glance, like it plays by different rules and is totally unlike Paris, London or even New York. 


Civic pride here, however, has always been fairly strong, and while its high culture institutions tend to be overshadowed by its status as a pop-culture capital, it does have some of the best art and historic museums and theaters in the world. The latest addition to this milieu, the Walt Disney Concert Hall(pictured above),  does owe its existence to the largesse of the wife of one of its most celebrated bosses, but it is not likely to be the venue for, say, Disney on Ice. This new theater was the result of a bequest by Lillian Disney and the proposed location was in the heart of the city, near Hollywood itself. 


Designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, the Concert Hall spent many years in gestation as the design was radical and technically challenging. The building was to have multiple curves and a very organic structural design. It was also expected to be acoustically perfect, something which the existing auditoriums of Los Angeles lacked sorely. The outer cladding is made of stainless steel, and is meant to display a different façade when viewed from each direction. The impressive staircase and courtyard lead from the corner of First Street and Grand Avenue. In addition to the theater proper, the complex also features a garden and a children’s amphitheater. Guided tours by volunteers are available here, as are audio tours. With the assistance of acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota the architect has designed what is expected to take its place as one of the best acoustically designed performance spaces in the world. 


Another major contribution by a wealthy benefactor is the Getty Museum. John Paul Getty was an oilman, and in his day was regarded as the richest man in the world. While regarded as a tightfisted person in his lifetime, he was an avid art collector and bequeathed this treasure to a foundation for public display and education. The collection was originally housed in Getty’s ranch home in Malibu, and later moved to a reconstruction of a Roman Villa. A new site was proposed and secured by the foundation for the museum. Located on a hill in the Santa Monica hills and just off the san Diego Freeway, the museum consists of six buildings designed by renowned architect Richard Meier. 


Italian travertine stone features in this building, along with large glassed windows to keep a consistently open atmosphere throughout the complex. This also helps to show off the artworks in the best possible Californian light. The gardens seem to spill into the interior space and merges well into the whole. A circular research library, restaurant, lecture halls and a conservation institute are housed here, besides the museum. The collection includes ancient, medieval and renaissance examples, all the way to 19th Century Art. The Getty is reputed to have one of the richest buying budgets of any museum in the world today.


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