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News analysis: Getty management setup a difficult art

January 15, 2010 |  5:49 pm

Jwood Jason Felch finds that the recent announcement that Michael Brand is leaving the Getty Museum has roots both in the established power structure set out by the J. Paul Getty Trust and in a more recent development. 

Getty Trust President James Wood asked Brand to resign, sources told Felch, after mounting disagreements. During a brief meeting late last year, Wood calmly told Brand he would likely be happier at a museum where he was his own boss, the sources said. The Getty announced on Jan. 7 that Brand was stepping down at the end of the month after serving four years of his five-year contract.

Brandvert Getty presidents and museum directors from Harold Williams and John Walsh to Barry Munitz and Deborah Gribbon, to Wood and Brand have clashed, largely because the museum director's role carries less authority than comparable positions at peer institutions. But when Wood established a new fund to supplement the museum's acquisition budget, a fund that Wood controlled access to, sources told Felch that Brand considered it another affront to his authority.

For the entire story, read here.

Photos: James Wood (at top), Anne Cusack/Los Angeles; Michael Brand, Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (2)

At what cost?

As an arts-loving Angeleno, who has spent many hours attending exhibitions and their openings at both the Getty Museum and Villa, I find the recent departure of Michael Brand, the Director, disturbing for a number of reasons. First, Mr. Wood has yet to offer a plausible explanation for what appears, from analysis of all the published facts at hand, to be in essence, a termination disguised as a resignation. From all reports circulating in both the art world and the larger public arena, this was a shocking piece of news, yet there has been no substantive reason given by anyone for this event: not Mr. Wood, nor any member of the Board of Trustees,

The question now is: why? Why would Mr. Wood, with only two years left himself, terminate, prior to the end of the contract term, the Museum Director who had finally brought some good press to the Getty: resolution of the antiquities disputes with Greece and Italy, major exhibitions from around the world, and sponsorship of some cutting edge installations such as the Tim Hawkinson pieces. Dr. Brand pretty much cleaned up the Getty’s soiled reputation during the four years that he has been Director. Why risk more negative press and public opinion? One must ask: why did the Board of Trustees agree to let Michael Brand go—or did they?

If this was indeed a power grab by Mr. Wood, it certainly doesn’t seem worth the trouble for Mr. Wood to spend a sizeable chunk of time—his and his staff’s—mounting a search for a replacement. For a Museum which has lost a substantial portion of its endowment under Mr. Wood’s watch, it seems financially imprudent to take on the seemingly uneccessary expenses of paying out the last year of Dr. Brand’s contract. and the bill for the new director search. The Getty must also be paying an additional salary to its interim director, even if he is already on the staff, not to mention the cost of the Museum’s PR necessary to handle this transition. Why not just wait the year and let the director’s contract run out?

I wonder: does Dr. Brand know things about Mr. Wood that haven’t yet come to light? Is this a play by Mr. Wood to ultimately combine both his position as President of the Board of Trustees with the Museum Director’s position? What does the Board of Trustees have to say about all this: aren’t they also responsible for the fiscal health of this non-profit institution? Was Mr. Wood’s decision more personal than prudent?

There still does not seem to be any clear vision presented by Mr. Wood for the Getty’s future—as an art-loving citizen of Los Angeles, I ask you, Mr. Wood: What is your plan???

I bet they have musical chairs in June again with staff layoffs. What a way to run a Museum.


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