|Burial Mask in jade, copper, gilded copper, shell, and violet stone, 525-550. Moche. Museo de Sitio Chan Chan, Huanchaco, Peru. Photo: Christopher B. Donnan|
Indigenous Americans were mystified at the Spaniards' obsession with gold. Meso- and South America was well supplied with the stuff, described as divine excrement. They had silver out the wazoo and, in some regions, platinum (regarded as off-brand silver, difficult to melt). Americans were expert gold workers but they prized green jade over any so-called precious metal; likewise turquoise, textiles, feathers, and sea shells. "Golden Kingdoms" is thus a meditation on the relativity of value. With Bitcoin, Silicon Valley, and a global art market minting money from nothing, its theme is as contemporary as any other PST LA/LA offering's.
|Octopus Frontlet in gold, chrysocolla and shells, 300-600 AD. Museo de la Nación, Lima, Peru|
"Golden Kingdoms" is one of the Getty's biggest shows ever, with about 300 objects filling every square foot of the Exhibitions Pavilion. For L.A. audiences with even the slightest interest in global antiquity, it easily rivals the Fowler Museum's "Royal Tombs of Sipan" (1993) and LACMA's "Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico" (2010).
Richard Meier hates signs the way Tesla drivers hate front license plates. Ever since the Brentwood campus opened, some visitors have had trouble finding the Exhibitions Pavilion, at the top of Meier's pristinely unmarked staircase. That shouldn't be a problem with this show.