At last, Getty's Villa gets opening date

October 30, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES -- Finally answering one of the art world's most frequently asked questions, the J. Paul Getty Trust last week announced that Jan. 28 is the opening date of the Villa in Malibu. The Roman-style complex that formerly served as the Getty's all-purpose museum will begin its new life as a specialized museum and study center, devoted to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.

Admission will be free, but advance, timed tickets will be required for each visitor. The ticketing system will assure an evenly paced flow of visitors, Getty officials said.

Plans for the reopening of the Villa have been clouded by controversy. Trust President and Chief Executive Barry Munitz's management style and financial expenditures are under scrutiny. Marion True, the Getty's longtime curator of antiquities and coordinator of Villa programs, awaits trial in Rome accused of conspiring to traffic in looted art. True has denied wrongdoing. She resigned this month after the Getty determined that she had violated trust policies by accepting a loan on a house in Greece with the help of an antiquities dealer.

Karol Wight, the Getty's former associate curator of antiquities, was appointed acting curator of antiquities.

But the Villa has long since established itself as a cultural landmark and popular destination, and the troubles are unlikely to stem the tide of visitors. Shuttered for renovation since 1997, the Villa has been expanded and reconfigured by Boston-based architects Machado and Silvetti Associates. New features include a 250-seat auditorium, a 450-seat outdoor theater and more space for staff and scholars, including conservation laboratories and additional parking.

The museum, which retains its original character, will house the Getty's 44,000-piece collection of antiquities, with about 1,200 works displayed.

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