2 Museums: 2 Excellent Shows (with a fun connection)

What was a Staycation is now the New Normal

Getty Center in December 2021

Many of us have curtailed plans to travel this holiday, providing an excellent opportunity to explore our own city’s cultural institutions — we used to call this a Staycation but now it’s just the New Normal. Luckily for Angelenos, two of our most expansive public campuses have wonderful shows on display, so make time to visit The Getty Center and The Huntington before the New Year. It’s easy to take these two spots for granted but wandering around the magnificent grounds, especially on a clear day, is deeply satisfying. Here’s what to look for:

The Getty Center

Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance is a bold, engaging show on view at The Getty Center until January 9, 2022. With endearingly realistic portraits of regular folks from the 16th Century alongside portraits of famous citizens (Thomas Cromwell and Erasmus), the intimate nature of Hans Holbein’s portraiture is strikingly modern… in fact, these portraits are practically photographic. The colors are vivid, a sense of humor is on display, and the painter’s use of symbolism is front and center in the work. You’ll likely never see so many Holbeins in the same place again, so make haste to see this exhibit.

Thomas Cromwell

If you are a fan of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, you’ll get a kick out of Holbein’s portrait of her favorite subject, Thomas Cromwell. For extra credit, be sure to check out this book in the gift shop, about Holbein’s portrait of Sir Thomas More. While the More portrait is not in this exhibit, you can learn about it in this book, which pairs scholarly text with a spicy forward by Mantel, and provides context for the circumstances under which the (now) famous painter sat with his famous subject.

There is nothing like visiting the Getty on a gorgeous day. Even with crowds, it’s a glorious place from which to perch in the bright sun and take on the 180 views from DTLA to Catalina. It’s also fun to just wander around the grounds, and discover corners you haven’t noticed before. I found new sculpture on this visit, and dropped in to a show about the Dada-ists at the Research Institute.

Adjacent to the Holbein show is a compact survey exhibition of the Getty’s greatest hits, including Van Gogh’s irises and several other masterpieces, making it easy for your holiday visitors to get to the good stuff quickly.

More Resources: Here’s a helpful explanation of what you can learn from this show. And here’s what the LA Times art critic has to say.

The Getty Center: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles CA 90049

Hours: 10:00am-5:30 daily except Monday – however, for the holidays, the museum will be open Mondays, December 20 and 27

The museum is free, but parking is $20 and you will need a timed entry ticket.

The Huntington

As a newly minted Holbein admirers, I was tickled to learn that Kehinde Wiley is a serious fan – the painter paid homage to Simon George of Cornwall (above) in his Portrait of Simon George II (below). Wiley, whose portrait of President Barack Obama is on view through the end of the year at LACMA, was commissioned by the Huntington to honor their most famous painting, Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy on the 100th anniversary of its acquisition. Blue Boy and Wiley’s new painting, Portrait of a Young Gentleman, are both on view now, facing each other in one of the institutions main galleries. Wiley, who spent time in LA when he was young, visited the Huntington as a boy, which makes the story all the more relevant right now. Here is a story about this special commission; but this portrait is only on view through January 3, 2022. Book your tickets now, as the Huntington does timed entry admission for indoor galleries.

Portrait of Simon George II, Kehinde Wiley

The Huntington is a perfect winter destination (it’s not too hot!) and an excellent destination to bring visiting relatives or friends over the holidays. The Huntington has sixteen separate gardens – each more incredible than the last; you could spend a week exploring them. The newest, The Chinese Garden is top of my list for my visit later this week. I will update this point after my visit. One of the neat things this museum does is lets you explore the gardens before your visit on anelaborate interactive map – here is the one for the Chinese Garden.

Also on view for a short period of time is The Orbit Pavilion, a silver structure that listens to passing satellites and is a collaboration between Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Huntington.

Orbit Pavilion

There is an online plant sale between now and Christmas.

Be sure to secure a timed entry ticket.

The Huntington: 1151 Oxford Road // San Marino, CA 91108  // 626.405.2100 

Open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. every day but Tuesdays (closed)