The Moon at the Top of the Hill
The J. Paul Getty Center in West Los Angeles is much more than just the most richly endowed art museum in the world. It is a cultural oasis with spectacular resources for the community. One of them is a free lecture series in the Harold R. Williams Auditorium.
During the past month, I’ve attended two events there. One was in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Gemini G.E.L gallery in Los Angeles, which represents artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Frank Stella, David Hockney and Robert Rauchenberg. The other celebrated the publication of the book, Conversations with Frank Gehry, by Barbara Isenberg.
When I heard that Gehry, the architect's architect, was going to be one freeway stop up the road from me, I reserved that evening for him. Aside from the fact that it was a spectacular night with a spring moon that was almost full, one of the angels in the publicity department left my name at the gate for a Top of the Hill parking spot, meaning I could drive up the winding road to the summit with the moon leading the way.
The campus of the Getty is every bit as beautiful as the art its five buildings house. I got there a little early so I could just breathe in the sky and feel all the creative energy in Los Angeles converging on top of that hill.
Frank Gehry is a rock star; the Mick Jagger of the architecture world. The man is eighty years old, and every year, he pushes the envelope further and further, creating art in buildings that are more like delicious pieces of sculpture than functional B- flat structures with impossible cubicles for people who abhor their jobs but are prisoners to their MasterCards.
That evening, Mr. Gehry discussed the meticulous process of creating the Walt Disney Music Hall in downtown L.A. He told us he ran his ideas by all the members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, wanting to know what each of them needed in and from their new home before he ever set pen to paper. He asked for and got feedback from everybody, including the valet parkers and the CPA’s.
A lot of parallels exist in music. When we’re creating a song or a CD, it's good business to know what our audiences want in addition to finding the best way to send it from our hearts to theirs, expressing ourselves truthfully and resonating with what they need and what they want to hear without sacrificing any creative integrity. Ideally, we are soaring with excitement about what we create, and our listeners "get it." Hopefully, what sings in us will last as long as Mr. Gehry's work does.
Doctors socialize with other doctors, lawyers with lawyers, so you'd think an iconic architect would hang around with his world-class colleagues, too. But Mr. Gehry’s friends are dancers, authors, Senators, hockey players and chefs. In no way does he restrict his interaction to business associates, and I’m convinced that’s what makes him such a great artist. He’s curious about everything, making a point of knowing who’s painting, sculpting and protesting what, and who’s sliding down which waterfall in the rain.
Coincidentally, the day after the Getty’s Gehry evening, I had an appointment to pitch an idea to the Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is across the street from the Walt Disney Music Hall. Not needing the extra half hour I'd allowed for heart attack traffic, even though I’d been to the concert hall before, I drove around the block 5 times to see it again and again from every angle, filling my eyes with Gehry’s beautiful lines and his lyrical, flower-like design. It’s a gift to see it.
Same with the Getty Center. I will be going back soon and often for other cultural events. And I hope you'll join me. There are few places in the world that are as stunning to the senses or as satisfying to the soul.
And I know the moon will be waiting for us at the top of the hill.