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The Getty Museum and Storytellers Ashas Baba and Antonio Sacre Team Up for this Falls Family Storytelling Series at the Getty Center

October 1, 2006 January 28, 2007

September 14, 2006

LOS ANGELES—What does an ornate 17th-century cabinet designed for French King Louis XIV have in common with a 45-foot-tall stainless steel abstract sculpture? Well, for starters, they’re both on view at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Even more incredibly, they’ll both be brought to life by master storytellers over several Sundays this Fall as part of the Getty Museum’s Family Storytelling series, beginning October 1, 2006 and ending January 28, 2007. Offered every year from October through May, Family Storytelling is a free educational program that gives families new ways to look closely at, and think creatively about, works of art at the Getty. The fun begins at the Getty Center’s tram arrival plaza, where storyteller and kora musician Asha’s Baba will weave a story that takes listeners on a journey up, over, around, and through a modern marvel of artistry and engineering, Martin Puryear’s colossal sculpture That Profile. The adventure continues in the Museum’s South Pavilion, where Antonio Sacre will spin a time-traveling tale of a fanciful cabinet created in the 1670’s by furniture worker André-Charles Boulle and metalworker Jean Varin, whose spectacular decorations include birds in marquetry and sculptures of mythological figures Hercules and Hippolyta. All stories this fall will be trilingual, presented mainly in English, while sprinkling Spanish and French into the mix.

Up, Over, Under, and Through

Driven by a desire to “make things rather than representations of them,” American artist Martin Puryear (b. 1941) decided to move away from his early training in painting and drawing and venture into the realm of sculpture. As a member of the Peace Corps, Puryear was sent to Sierra Leone, where West African craftsmen educated him in their traditions, further cementing his interest in creating tangible objects for art. Puryear’s colossal That Profile (1999) is craftsmanship taken to an epic level. Rising on six slender legs to a height of forty-five feet above a broad expanse of travertine, the outdoor sculpture is the very first work of art visitors encounter after taking the tram up to the Getty Center. Impressive both as an artistic accomplishment and as an engineering feat, Puryear’s gigantic work is an airy network of welded, sandblasted stainless steel tubes, two and three inches in diameter, bound together by stout strands of silver-patinated bronze. Elegant in its apparent simplicity, the sculpture’s complex structure reveals its true character only slowly. Looking at That Profile straight on it appears to be fully round, but a walk around the sculpture reveals that its south face is flat, while the north face curves gently through the air. Just as the shape of the sculpture can change either subtly or dramatically, the meaning of That Profile is also wide open for interpretation. Is it a fishnet being cast into the sky? Or is it, as its title might suggest, a profile of a human head?

The mutability of That Profile provides perfect fodder for award-winning storyteller Asha’s Baba, who will take listeners on a journey up, over, around, and through Puryear’s colossal sculpture. Asha’s Baba is a practitioner of Jaliyaa, a West African oral tradition and guild of wordsmiths who pass social orders, values, and customs to future generations via narrative performances. One of the few practitioners of Jaliyaa born outside of West Africa, Asha’s Baba translates the ancient tradition for contemporary audiences into an amazing confluence of song, music, and storytelling. Asha’s Baba’s storytelling versatility is complemented by his skillful playing on the kora, a 21-string bridge harp and one of West Africa’s most complex musical instruments. For his performances at the Getty Center, Asha’s Baba will spin two stories told in English, French, and Spanish. Asha’s Baba’s story will have him weaving in and out of That Profile, to prove that in life, just as with Puryear’s sculpture, there are many different ways of looking at a problem.

In the first story, “Gift of a Broken Calabash,” a young woman inherits a large, leaky gourd from her mother. When other villagers plea with her to replace her gourd with a newer, larger, and fancier one, she stubbornly refuses. Why? What does she see that they cannot?

In the second tale, “Feeding a Family,” Asha’s Baba uses the fishnet appearance of That Profile to tell a whimsical tale of a king and queen who host a competition to determine who among the men of their fishing village is worthy of marrying their daughter. The answers to both stories require listeners to engage with the storyteller, and to find a solution by looking across, over, under, around, and through the problem.

A Cabinet Fit for a King

Sometime between 1675 and 1680, Parisian artist André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) created a magnificently ornate cabinet for French King Louis XIV, which is now on view in the South Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. Boulle’s name became synonymous with the practice of veneering furniture with marquetry of tortoiseshell, pewter, and brass.  As a result, his contemporaries christened him “the most skillful artisan in Paris,” and in 1672 the furniture worker achieved the title of cabinetmaker and sculptor to King Louis XIV. The fanciful animal and bird decorations on the cabinet refer to Louis XIV’s military victories against the Dutch, Spanish, and Imperial armies during the Dutch Wars of 1672–1678, and the cabinet itself celebrates the Treaty of Nijmegen, which ended the conflict. This monumental cabinet stands over 7 ½-feet-tall and appears to be held up by sculptures of two large figures from Greek mythology, Hercules and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, representatives of strength and bravery in war. On the drawer above the cabinet’s main door, gilt bronze military trophies flank a medallion portrait of Louis XIV. This portrait was cast from a medal by artist Jean Varin (1607–72), one of France’s most famous medallists, that was struck in 1661. Although the cabinet was made for Louis XIV, it doesn’t appear in inventories of his possessions, suggesting it may have been given as a royal gift.

Most visitors to the Getty Museum will look at Boulle’s cabinet and see an impressive and beautiful work of art, a historically important monument, or perhaps a really heavy piece of furniture. For Antonio Sacre, the closer he looked at the cabinet, the more details he saw—like a 17th-century “Where’s Waldo” illustration. The son of a Cuban father and an Irish-American mother, Sacre is an award-winning storyteller from Boston who has performed at the Kennedy Center, the National Storytelling Festival, the Library of Congress’ Festival of the Book, and museums, schools, libraries, and festivals internationally. With remarkable skill and an irreverent sense of humor, Sacre presents “The Artist in the Cupboard, or The Mystery of the Time Traveling Cabinet Dwellers,” a tale that will take listeners back in time over 300 years to help uncover the stories behind the cabinet’s imagery, the artists who made it, and its possible owner. Using an entertaining mix of English, Spanish, and French, Sacre will assume the role of three characters: a modern day curator trying to learn all he can about the exquisite cabinet; the French artist Boulle living inside the Cabinet; and a Spanish art collector who may have been one of the original owners of the cabinet. Along the way, listeners will also learn about the ninth labor of Hercules, the spectacular parties held at the Palace of Versailles, why tortoise shells are no longer used in marquetry, and why Boulle was the Britney Spears of his time.

Family Storytelling at the Getty Center is a free educational program presented by the J. Paul Getty Museum. Storytelling is offered twice a month on Sundays from October through May. Reservations are not required, but visitors should sign up at the Museum Information Desk. The fall series begins with Asha’s Baba’s stories inspired by Martin Puryear’s That Profile on October 1, 2006 and closes with Antonio Sacre’s story inspired by André-Charles Boulle’s “Cabinet on Stand” on January 28, 2007 (see complete schedule below). The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049. For additional information, visitors can call 310-440-7300 or visit

Family Storytelling – Fall 2006–2007 schedule

“Gift of a Broken Calabash” and “Feeding a Family”
Join us for a journey up, over, around and through sculpture with storyteller and kora musician Asha’s Baba as he weaves a tale inspired by Martin Puryear’s That Profile. Sign up at the Museum Information Desk.
Sundays October 1, November 12, December 3, 2006 and January 14, 2007
11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

“The Artist in the Cupboard, or The Mystery of the Time Traveling Cabinet Dwellers”
Travel through time with storyteller Antonio Sacre in this tale of a cabinet made during the time of King Louis XIV of France. Sign up at the Museum Information Desk.
Sundays October 29, November 19, December 17, 2006 and January 28, 2007
11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Other Family Activities at the Getty

Family Festival
Explore German culture in this daylong Family Festival inspired by the exhibition From Caspar David Friedrich to Gerhard Richter: German Paintings from Dresden. Dance to the polka inspired tunes of Conjunto Los Pochos as they play the norteño and conjunto music of Mexico, directly influenced by German music from the 19th century. Rediscover the magic of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with master storytellers or enjoy one of the hands-on workshops and indulge your creativity! No reservations required.
Sunday, October 15, 2006, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Getty Center:
Museum Courtyard

Family Festival
Delve deep into the mysteries of the ancient Mediterranean in this Family Festival inspired by the exhibition Stories in Stone: Conserving Mosaics of Roman Africa; Masterpieces from the National Museums of Tunisia. Enjoy the music of Tunisia and North Africa, create your own mosaic at one of the hands-on workshops, and find yourself in the enchanted world of ancient myths brought to life. Advance, timed tickets required and are available beginning November 22 at 9:00 a.m.
Sunday, December 5, 2006, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Getty Villa:
Peristyle Gardens and Auditorium

Art Odyssey for Families
This 45-minute journey through the galleries features a fun, activity-filled visit for children (ages 5 and up) and adults to enjoy together. Ofrecida en español. Space is limited. Sign up at the Tour Meeting Place outside the Museum Main Entrance beginning at 1:30 p.m. Advance, timed tickets to the Getty Villa required.
Every Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m.
Getty Villa:
Museum Galleries

Family Art Stops
Get up close and personal with a single work of art at this half-hour, hands-on gallery experience geared for families with children ages 5 and up. Ofrecida en español a las 2:30 p.m. Space is limited. Sign up at the Museum Information Desk beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Getty Center: Museum Galleries
Every Saturday and Sunday, 2:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and daily from November 21–26 and December 26–31.

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Mike Winder
Getty Communications Dept.

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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Visiting the Getty Center: The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is 310-440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.

Visiting the Getty Villa: The Getty Villa is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Villa is always free. A ticket is required for admission. Tickets can be ordered in advance, or on the day of your visit, at or at 310-440-7300. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm for evening events. Groups of 15 or more must make reservations by phone. For more information, call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish); 310-440-7305 (TTY line for the deaf or hearing impaired). The Getty Villa is at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California.