Wednesday 9 November 2011

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J. Paul Getty Museum - Angry Birds Vs. Culture

Let me start by saying that my kids are not anti-art. Well maybe the boy is a little, but both girls have artistic inclinations, and I can usually keep the boy in line with just a glance or two (although it's getting a little more difficult now that he's taller than me). I guess sometimes you just choose the wrong activity on the wrong day, and no matter how interesting the subject matter, it's going to fall flat. This was our unfortunate experience on the day we decided to visit the J. Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles.

We arrived in good enough spirits. We paid to park in the garage (amazingly the only cost of the day as the museum is completely free) and then caught the monorail up to the main site. It was a nice, slow moving ride up to the top of the hill where the museum is, and you get a great view of Santa Monica and West Hollywood to entertain you on the ride up. Instead of admiring the view though, I should have been paying attention, because somewhere along the ride something happened that sent our day at the museum in to a spiral.

I might have missed the change itself, but the attitude adjustment was apparent as soon as we stepped off the tram. The museum is a series of striking buildings, all of which scream out for pictures to be taken. I asked my kids to stand behind a wall that bore the name of the museum for a quick picture. At least that's what I heard myself say. Judging from the amount of resistance that I received, my body language must have translated the request into "Would you like to do six hours of math homework?" The howls of complaint attracted plenty of attention, and should have tipped me off to how much fun this day was going to be, but in my ever-optimistic mood I assumed that it was probably just a momentary conflict, and that being exposed to some of the greatest artists in history would more than turn around a rough start to our visit.

Silly me. Whatever time-space continuum we passed through on the monorail had done a complete demolition job on our children's attitude, and it wasn't reverting to normal any time soon. We started making our way through the museum, which is absolutely packed with fantastic exhibits by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Picasso. I could take up page after page here telling you about how amazing some of the art was, and what kind of impact it had on me. I'm pretty sure my kids could tell you that there was a bench in the middle of each room that they could sit on. I'm 100% sure that they could tell you all about the one room that didn't have a  bench in it, as it was almost cause for a mutiny when we paused for a second, leaving them with no place to sit. If my kids remember anything of the J. Paul Getty museum, it would be how comfortable the benches were.

Actually, there was one big highlight of the day for the boy. The museum will always be remembered as "Where he was the first time he completed Angry Birds". I doubt the kids noticed, but it could also be remembered as "The place that nearly gave Dad a coronary" from watching his son walk among multi-million dollar paintings without looking up from his iPhone. We must have been the security guard's worst nightmare, as whenever we changed rooms it looked like every "walk into the wall" scenario you've ever seen on America's Funniest Home Videos. You were just waiting for the boy to bounce off a Degas or walk through a Picasso. It's amazing how hard he can concentrate on shooting birds at pigs, but a 5,000 year old storage jar wasn't even worth a second glance (I should have told him he could throw it at the pigs. I'll bet he would have given it another look then.).

Eventually we gave up, but this time we weren't leaving without a souvenir. We made each of the kids pick a piece of art that they liked and stand beside it for a picture. The girls looked around a little and picked out a couple of pieces that they liked. The boy just stood beside the nearest painting (which happened to be Monet's 1873 Sunrise). Fine, we're done, and we made our way back down the monorail. As a last little piece of revenge, since we had left the museum earlier than planned we ended up right in the middle of LA rush hour, and it took almost two hours to get back to our hotel (#LessonsMorePainfulToTeachThanLearn).

It certainly wasn't quite the horizon expanding experience that we'd hoped for, but it's definitely not the museum's fault. The J.Paul Getty Museum is an amazing treasure, with its awe inspiring architecture only overshadowed by it's huge collection of art masterpieces. I'd love to go back some day and properly explore the museum (we only covered about half) but if our kids are with us, there's going to be some different ground rules laid out. There will be no sitting in every room, no Angry Birds, and we'll be walking up to the top. I'm not chancing whatever happens on that monorail again.