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Getty attendance grows as its funding falls

March 16, 2009 |  1:14 pm

Sticklers for proper English usage probably have given up pointing out that "decimate" is not synonymous with "wipe out" but instead means to reduce something by a tenth. Going by the dictionary definition, the J. Paul Getty Trust's investment fund has gone through a triple decimation over the last year and a half, from a peak of $6.4 billion in mid-2007 to $4.5 billion at the end of 2008 -- prompting plans to more than doubly decimate the Getty's operating budget with a nearly 25% cut during the fiscal coming year. Gettyvillacrowd

But one thing about the Getty that apparently is not dwindling with hard times is its appeal to the public. Attendance totaled 1.6 million in 2008 at the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa, the antiquities collection near Malibu, says spokesman Ron Hartwig -- and so far this year, it's running 3% ahead of last year's pace in Brentwood and is up 19% at the Villa (right). That's despite a 10% reduction in operating hours at the Getty Center and a $2 hike in parking fees at each site (up to $10), both of which have been in effect since September.

Hartwig says a new marketing slant emphasizing the park-like surroundings, striking views and architectural grace of the two museums seems to be working, along with a revised weekend parking scheme that has freed up more spaces at the Villa, where parking reservations are required. Also, it doesn't hurt that, parking aside, admission remains free -- something Getty President James Wood says he aims to preserve amid the cuts.

Munitz While other museums can at least hold out the hope of being bailed out by a wealthy donor or donors -- remember the recent MOCA emergency? -- the Getty Trust typically raises less than $1 million a year in cash donations and has not cultivated the gang of go-to philanthropists that other institutions must marshal to sustain themselves. It simply hasn't had the need, what with its huge endowment generating enough of an investment return, until now, to keep the operation humming.

When then-President Barry Munitz (left) floated a trial balloon about the need to begin vigorous fundraising so as to diversify the trust's income sources and cushion it against market downturns, his idea got strafed by other museum leaders, who said they were having enough trouble raising the money to balance their budgets without having to compete with the Richie Rich of the museum world.

The Getty at least can look back fondly on two great years from mid-2005 to mid-2007, when, according to an analysis by Moody's Investors Service, the trust's investments grew 36.4% -- the opposite of a triple-decimation, whatever the word for that might be.

-- Mike Boehm

Photos: From top, museum-goers at Getty Villa; Getty Villa. Credits: Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times (Villa); Matthias Rietschel / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (4)

Its a great date place, the art is interesting, even if not always great at the Brentwood site, but especially at the rebuilt Malibu museum it is a lovely place been there twice since reopening, drawing some of the grounds and enjoyed the atmosphere. It is more than just an art experience, it is of a lifetyle and place from another time. It is history and drama, and a part of who we are as humans. And so many come from many walks of life, many ethnicities, many cultures. It is of great value to all humanity, and so people go, unlike certain graveyards downtown where humanity is ignored.

All this panic about endowments is absurd. It was grossly overvalued before, now undervalued, and it will go back up again. They do have to cut operating expenses, but far from being endangered. You all are operating just like te stock market, on greed and fear. Be realistic, I know, that is asking alot from artistes, but the Getty will be fine, and perhaps thrive in this climate. People want something real, and this is just such a thing. especially on a beautiful spring day with a hot babe in your arm, which am lucky enough to have everyday. Enjoy one of mans talents fulfilled, the Getty is in great shape, fear mongers nonetheless.

art collegia delenda est

The Getty Center is, without a doubt, the number one destination I'd recommend to all my out-of-town guests visiting LA, as I know it is with many of my friends and acquaintances. For the art, scenery, garden, restaurant, views - the whole experience - it's unparalleled in the city. I go all the time. They will survive and continue to thrive as people look for beauty - and FREE - during this tough year.

"The World's Worst Run Museum." It shows! How do you lose that amount and no one is fired! But they will layoff the workers. Please goto the Getty site and see what the Chief Investment Officier made per year. Millions a year if you need help. While he was in charge the Getty Trust went from 6.5 billion in mid-2007 to $4.5 billion at the end of 2008. He and the rest of the management should be fired. They have to be out right stupid to lose that amount of money. Not the people that work for nothing. As usually they are going to layoff the workers maybe it's time for management to go! Fire the leaders that lost this huge amount of money! I welcome you to look at the past management their management style it speaks volumes.

No one lost any money. thats just the worth of the endowment, t added up sums of their investments, mostly in stocks I would think. And stocks go up and down, they will go back up, but not to the aburd levels they were, not til at least 7 or 8 years unless they were stupid enough to sell low.

That these folks were overpaid is another thing. They got the going rates, which were also absurd in the last ten years. They will go down, slowly, these guys need to have their pay frozen for a decade. It is now proven that no one is irreplacable, and that the cream does not always come to the top. We have had overpaid bozos in charge of major corporatiosn for decades, just hire some low level guy with brains and he cant do a worse job, for half the cost.

The pay of the top executives must go down, as well as freeze the common worker as we pay off this massive debt we have accumulated, and companites begin to take responsbiility for their workers, health care is a killer, and Obama may well be overspending on it. Companies need to spend more there, and less on executive compensation. And it wil all even out. Daimler Benz and Chrysler broke up because of incompatable corporate cultures, where Americans got paid far more than Eurpean counterparts, We must reasess what is important, but the government cannot do it all, and places like the Getty need to come to thier senses.

But are rich enough to remain nuts if they want to be. just such a waste.

art collegia delenda est


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