Blowhard, Esq. writes:
In a way [J. Paul Getty] seems to have wanted only to do something no one else could or would do. In his posthumous book, As I See It, he advises us that he never wanted “one of those concrete-bunker-type structures that are the fad among museum architects.” He refused to pay for any “tinted-glass-and-stainless-steel monstrosity.” He assures us that he was “neither shaken nor surprised” when his villa was finished and “certain critics sniffed.” He had “calculated the risks.” He knew that he was flouting the “doctrinaire and elitist” views he believed endemic in “many Art World (or should I say Artsy-Craftsy?) quarters.”
Doctrinaire and elitist. Artsy-craftsy. On the surface Getty would appear to have been a case of he-knew-what-he-liked-and-he-built-it, a tax dodge from the rather louche world of the international rich, and yet the use of that word “elitist” strikes an interesting note. The man who built himself the Getty [Villa] never saw it, although it opened a year and a half before his death. He seems to have liked the planning of it. He personally approved every paint sample. He is said to have taken immense pleasure in every letter received from anyone who visited the museum and liked it (such letters were immediately forwarded to him by the museum staff), but the idea of the place seems to have been enough, and the idea was this: here was a museum built not for those elitist critics but for “the public.” Here was a museum that would be forever supported by its founders alone, a museum that need never depend on any city or state or federal funding, a place forever “open to the public and free of all charges.”
As a matter of fact large numbers of people who do not ordinarily visit museums like the Getty [Villa] a great deal, just as its founder knew they would. There is one of those peculiar social secrets at work here. On the whole “the critics” distrust great wealth, but “the public” does not. On the whole “the critics” subscribe to the romantic view of man’s possibilities, but “the public” does not. In the end the Getty [Villa] stands above the Pacific Coast Highway as one of those odd monuments, a palpable contract between the very rich and the people who distrust them the least.
– Joan Didion, “The Getty” from The White Album