Thursday, June 01, 2006


The Getty's To-Do List

Here, drawn from my conversations today with Getty Museum officials, including Michael Brand---its beset from the get-go director---is the list of things he hopes to (or needs to) do, in relatively short order:

1) Move into his new house, a process that was delayed when it was discovered that his first prospective abode was moldy.

2) Settle the antiquities mess, making simultaneous peace with Greece (which is claiming four objects) and Italy (claiming 52, including one of those claimed by Greece). All Brand was willing to say about the peace talks was that both countries "are happy to have this dialogue." And he wryly observed that the New York Times "was very kind to remind me of that [the antiquities mess] this morning," in an article about evidence presented yesterday at the trial in Italy of former Getty antiquities curator Marion True---photographs of the allegedly looted and illegally exported Getty Griffins, "one of the glories of the Getty's collection---lying in a car trunk, encrusted with grime and loosely wrapped in newspaper." Brand, who has already been shown some of Italy's evidence, said these photos "did not come as a surprise."

3) Develop a comprehensive set of acquisition guidelines, not just for antiquities but for all future acquisitions. Brand said he hoped to have this in place within a few months.

4) Introduce to the Getty's galleries, through special exhibitions, world cultures not represented in the museum's Euro-centric collection. Brand said it was "too late" for the Getty to start collecting in those areas, but a vase exhibition, for example, could include not only ancient Greek and Roman objects, but also examples from Central Asia.

5) Permanently display rotating selections from the Getty's extensive photography collection, using more than 7,000 square feet of gallery space that became available when the antiquities collection was dispatched to the renovated and expanded Getty Villa in Malibu.

6) Get some art-knowledgeable trustees on the Getty's board, filling the void left by the departures of Barbara Fleischman, due to her involvement in the museum's antiquities controversies, and Agnes Gund, due to the expiration of her term on the board.

7) Hire a new chief curator (replacing William Griswold, who left to become director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts) and a new head curator of antiquities (replacing True).

8) Mount an exhibition of icons and manuscripts from the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai in Egypt. The world's oldest continuously operating Christian monastery is lending some of the world's oldest surviving Byzantine icons. The Getty is billing "Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai," Nov. 14-Mar. 4, as "one of the most ambitious and important projects" it has undertaken.

9) Keep feeding the hungry New York art press. Ron Hartwig, head of the Getty's communications department, said that the museum's officials intend to be "more visible in New York."

Jean Georges, anyone?

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