Art, Gardens and Architecture, Getty Center

Miniature Getty Center Opens in Philadelphia

Getty Center garden installation at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadephia Flower Show

Look slightly familiar? This landscape-in-progress riffs on the Getty Center’s architecture and gardens. It’s on view March 1 to 9 at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadephia Flower Show.

Two thousand miles east of L.A., the final touches are being put on a pint-sized version of the Getty Center—in flowers. The mini-Getty will be unveiled Friday at the Philadelphia Flower Show organized by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which this year has challenged landscape architects to transform museums around the country into botanical form. Rising alongside the Getty Center are the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Barnes Foundation, and the North Carolina Museum of Art, to name just four of of this year’s participants.

The Philadelphia Flower Show is the world’s oldest and largest indoor flower show. (If you’re wondering why it’s indoors, check the weather in Philly today.) If it relates to plants, you’ll find it there: from massive displays of rare orchids to discussions on vegetable gardening to stop hunger.

Getty Center garden installation at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Philadephia Flower Show

Azaleas in full bloom, inspired by the Getty Center’s Azalea Pool, part of Robert Irwin’s Central Garden. In this photo, the water feature has yet to be filled.

Each participating museum worked with a garden designer who sought inspiration in its collections, buildings, or grounds. Our collaborator is the Philadelphia firm of Burke Brothers, whose landscape architect Vivianne Englund-Callahan created this SoCal moment in the middle of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In a bird’s-eye-view, the 40-by-55-foot installation looks like an abstract painting, filled with blocks of contrasting colors and textures.

Landscape architect's rendering of the Getty Center display at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Designer’s-eye-view rendering of the mini-Getty. Courtesy of Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build

Two trellises, inspired by these lavender ones at the Getty Center, lead to a central open space surrounded by seating walls and flowering trees.

Lavender wisteria trellis at the Getty Center

The lavender trellis at the Getty Center, a pop of color amidst the travertine

Englund-Callahan drew inspiration for the installation from several aspects of the Getty Center’s architecture and gardens—the travertine grid, the Azalea Pool, and the cactus garden on the South Promontory overlooking L.A. Also—and really, what plant-lover could resist?—she snuck in a nod to Van Gogh’s Irises.

The Getty-in-flowers opens to the public on March 1 and closes March 9. If you’re in Philly and lucky enough to see it and its neighbors on this unusual and completely original museum row, snap it and share with the hashtag #ARTiculture.

Robert Irwin's Central Garden at the Getty Center

Central Garden at the (real) Getty Center

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.


      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”

      02/11/16

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