Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ancient city of Pompeii is subject of Getty Villa exhibit

Pool at Getty Villa, Malibu, California
Pool at Getty Villa, Malibu, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Performers act out Pompeii's final days during a live show in New York's Coney Island in 1903. Benjamin J. Falk took the photo.

Kenneth Lapatin, the associate curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, has overseen four shows about the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. But that's nothing. In the past decade alone, he estimated, more than 300 Pompeii exhibits have been mounted worldwide.

Despite the global glut of shows that have been devoted to the ill-fated city, Lapatin doesn't hesitate when he says that a new Pompeii exhibit at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades is "unlike any show that has ever been done."
Lapatin's bold statement about "The Last Days of Pompeii," a show co-organized with the Cleveland Museum of Art, has as much to do with context as it does with content. In most cases, previous exhibits have taken a fairly straightforward approach toward Pompeii, looking back at the culture and daily life of the city, which was frozen in time after it was blanketed by tons of ash from the catastrophic Mount Vesuvius eruption in A.D. 79.

The Getty Villa's show, however, takes a forward-thinking approach, examining how Pompei's still-potent legacy has affected the "modern imagination."
Lapatin selected paintings, sculptures and other works of art that fit into one of three categories: decadence, apocalypse and resurrection.

"(In terms of) decadence, people have this idea that Pompeii had these evil undertones filled with sex and drunkenness, Lapatin said. "It wasn't. It wasn't even an important town, other than how it was destroyed. It was not a great center for art like Rome or Alexandria. It was a small city, like Inglewood. But it has become something else."
A prime example of how Pompeii has been re-imagined is Francesco Netti's 1880 oil painting "Gladiator Fight during a Meal at Pompeii."

Via Ancient city of Pompeii is subject of Getty Villa exhibit