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The stories they tell

December 09, 2007|Suzanne Muchnic

The winter holidays bring a rush of opportunities for getting and spending, but with luck they also offer up pockets of time for experiences that go beyond pure commerce. Should your rituals include "the trip to the museum" with visiting friends and relatives, these recommendations will lead you to small gems -- selected for their stories, their surprises and their virtuosity -- tucked into permanent collections and exhibitions now on view. Consider this small collection of objects (a second will appear in this spot next week) a starting point for serendipitous exploring.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center

As its title suggests, "Medieval Treasures From the Cleveland Museum of Art" is loaded with special stuff. But don't miss the 12th century Nederlandish "Pendant: Virgin and Child." Just smaller than 8 by 7 inches, it doesn't grab as much attention as, say, the half-suit of armor near the entrance, but it's a tour de force. Made by a master craftsman in the Circle of Godefroid de Huy, in the Mosan region of present-day Belgium, the pendant is composed of small pieces of copper -- every last bit of which has been tooled, modeled, enameled or inset with gemstone-like glass and, finally, gilded. Created for a monastery and acquired by the Cleveland Museum about 80 years ago, it's part of a traveling exhibition at the Getty Center until Jan. 20.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, December 20, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Museum treasures: An article in the Dec. 9 Calendar section about treasures in local museums said that Karen Koblitz's "Hanukkah Still Life" will be displayed indefinitely at the Skirball Cultural Center. The display will be dismantled Dec. 30.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, December 23, 2007 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Museum treasures: An article Dec. 9 about treasures in local museums said that Karen Koblitz's "Hanukkah Still Life" will be displayed indefinitely at the Skirball Cultural Center. The display will be dismantled Dec. 30.

Getty Villa

Caged cups -- those wondrous creations that encase a glass vessel inside a larger one that has been carved to a state of lace -- don't get much more famous than the "Lycurgus Cup." Revered for its age, artistry and beauty, the 4th century Roman artwork can appear green or red, depending on how it's lighted. The anonymous craftsman who fashioned the outer cup, or cage, depicted the myth of Lycurgus, a Thracian king who disturbed secret rituals of the wine god Bacchus and was strangled by a woman who turned herself into a grapevine. In the collection of the British Museum in London, the cup is on view in "Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome," at the Getty Villa until Jan. 14.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

What's this? A contemporary photograph in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Islamic galleries? An image of a young Iranian woman in traditional attire, posed with an avant-garde newspaper? Well, yes. On the wall of a gallery displaying historical metal, ceramic and tile works are two 1998 photographs by Iranian artist Shadi Ghadirian, from her Qajar Series, inspired by 19th century studio portraits of women who sport thick eyebrows, head scarves and short skirts over baggy trousers. Grappling with modern-day conflicts, Ghadirian has re-created the pictures by dressing models in period costumes, painting elaborate backdrops and adding elements that bring the images startlingly up to date. The museum recently purchased her series, launching an initiative to incorporate contemporary art from the Middle East in its Islamic collection.

Skirball Cultural Center

Karen Koblitz's glazed ceramic "Hanukkah Still Life" is the Los Angeles artist's take on her Jewish heritage -- with a Southern accent. Head of USC's ceramics department, Koblitz made the sculpture for a 1983 holiday exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, S.C. She fashioned the lamp after one in the local synagogue, added clay oranges because of the fruit's presence in Southern-style Hanukkah festivities and incorporated patterns found in medieval illuminated Hebrew Bible manuscripts. A recent gift to the Skirball Cultural Center, the artwork is on display there indefinitely.

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