After weeks of writing to deadlines, reading student papers, plowing through stacks of books and journals doing research, my wife and I decided to let loose and have some fun. Dancing by moonlight? Out to hear live music? Reserve a room at a favorite beach hideaway?
No, we went to a museum on a Saturday night.
The truth is, we have always been the museum-over-night-clubbing kind of couple. We went to the Getty to see A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography (now through June 8th). It was the perfect exhibit: we both love British history and photography.
The Getty Center is open until 9 PM on Saturdays (Fridays, too, from May 30th to August 29th). We arrived at 7:30 and drove right in. The parking lot is now automated, and after 5 PM, the price of a parking space drops to ten dollars. Admission to the museum is free.
The first shock was how many other people had the same idea. The place was moderately crowded. Warm weather has tourists already in town and locals looking for a cheap place to hang out. The Getty Center is not cheap if you buy anything in the museum store or in the self-service café. There are also coffee carts, and a very high end restaurant. However, I guess most people love the atmosphere of the museum and gardens at night. It was a beautiful evening.
There were families with the requisite bratty kids—are there any other kind these days. Why is it that parents feel they must argue with their tiny tots in public, as if this somehow makes them good parents. My parents never argued; you did what you were told or you got left in the car. Kids also seem to enjoy running in front of you causing near catastrophic falls. Most of these cute little midgets also hadn’t a clue what they were supposed to look at. If I had to guess, I’d say the parents were looking for someplace contained where they could let them run and run and run until they dropped. Then the real parental fun can begin once the kids are safely tucked into bed and out cold from exhaustion.
There were also a fair number of teenagers and early-twentysomethings. As we were walking up from the tram, a foursome in front of us seemed to have one goal in mind: the boys were pulling at the bikini top strings of the girls in an effort to untie and free the goods. Who wears a bikini top to a museum? I know I was never allowed to, but that, as they say, is a whole other essay. The point is, every couple of young adults we saw were actively pulling on one another, like a walking wrestling match. I remember wanting to get my arm around my date, or hold hands, but slap them on the back of the neck? Give them a walking wedgie? The art was irrelevant. In fact, much of it was in jeopardy from the boy-girl tug-of-war being waged through the galleries.
Then there were the adults. They acted as ridiculous as the kids. Giggling, screaming, talking loudly to attract attention—why are people so starved to be noticed. One couple, I do not lie, chased each other around the museum store with large magnifying glasses, a sale item. They screeched and cackled, jostled and banged their way through the store. The weirdness finally tired them out and they disappeared to annoy someone else. Of course, there were also the “experts,” lecturing everyone within earshot to demonstrate the wisdom and learning they had acquired over the years. Sitting through The King’s Speech and both Elizabeth movies does not make someone an expert in British history.
As for the Queen Victoria exhibit, we found the work ineffectually displayed, and that is my main complaint about the art at the Getty. It always looks like it was thrown on the wall at the last minute. Frames didn’t match the art; wall colors did nothing to enhance the work; lighting was poorly positioned or just inadequate. At this Disneyland of art museums, it just feels like the art is not all that important. As for this exhibit, a good book on early photography would’ve provided a much better history of the art form. And there are certainly more informative history books.
We stayed until almost nine before making our way down the hill to our car. It was okay, for a Saturday night. The views were beautiful—Santa Monica Bay, Century City, even a distant LAX. Would I go back? Maybe in winter, on a cold, rainy Saturday night. I am quite sure, on a night like that, we’d have the place all to ourselves.