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Getty Trust names James Cuno president and chief executive -- now, why not Getty Museum director?

May 9, 2011 | 10:19 am

Cuno M. SPencer Green AP With the announcement Monday that the J. Paul Getty Trust has named James Cuno, currently director of the Art Institute of Chicago, as trust president and chief executive, the Getty is halfway home. Now all it needs to do is appoint a director for its flagship Getty Museum, a job that has been vacant for more than a year.

My pick: James Cuno.

As I've written before, splitting the top two Getty jobs is not just senseless, but it's also counterproductive. The director has full responsibility for the museum's operation, but the trust president has final authority over the museum, including its budgets and acquisitions. Full responsibility without full authority is a recipe for friction, at the very least, which has played out repeatedly at the Getty for nearly 30 years. Why keep hindering the huge potential of the place?

Cuno's appointment is not surprising; his name has been on most lists of likely candidates. (His predecessor as Getty Trust president, James Wood, who died suddenly last June, also came to the post from the directorship of the AIC.) And Cuno's experience as a museum director is lengthy and impressive, mostly with academic-affiliated institutions: Prior to Chicago, he was director of London's Courtauld Institute, the Harvard Art Museums, Dartmouth's Hood Museum of Art and UCLA's Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts.

After Wood's untimely death last summer, the Getty board put its ongoing museum-director search on hold, pending fulfillment of the trust president's appointment. Now that the job has been filled -- Cuno starts work Aug. 1 -- the director search begins anew.

Perhaps that announcement can be made quickly -- say, on Aug. 2.


Soumaya Critic's Notebook: The Getty Trust's presidency needs to be abolished

Art review: 'Paris: Life & Luxury' at the Getty Museum

Critic's Notebook: Mexico City's new Soumaya Museum disappoints

 -- Christopher Knight


Photo: James Cuno at the Art Institute of Chicago; in the background is "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," by Georges Seurat. Credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press




Comments () | Archives (3)

Why not have a higher-powered scholar/critic as head of the museum? If you go to the library of congress page and look at Cuno's scholarly achievement, it is certainly respectable, but no more than that: interviews with artists and editing swamp his own "original" scholarship. What's wrong with friction?

As a current museum professional - this continued trend of hiring and promoting leadership that clashes with basic museum principals is amazing. So many large institutions have Presidents that either should have stepped down years ago, or change their positions as figure heads among the board (that usually they appointed). The power of a Director should be used for the good of the institution, not wasted in petty politics on personal opinions without reason or thoughts on best practice.

I love the Getty, not just for their decent collection, beautiful buildings and locations, but more for the insane workings of J. Paul Getty. As nutty and cheap as he may have been, he wanted to create something for Los Angeles. LA is a thriving city with a lack of certain cultural appreciation. Its not the people's fault, the arts institutions, the Boards, Directors, need to engage the city, create loyalty. When one of the top museums in the world can not recognize their own managerial faults, how do they expect the people to continue to care, visit, or support them?

I agree with Mr. Knight, and hope they learn something since Brand and hire this guy as the Director too. To many museum directors/boards set senior staff up to fail - I hope the Getty realizes that when you clip the wings and then expect flight, you're just asking for disaster.

He has taken a pretty hard line on art repatriation questions. So The Getty is saying Enough! to Italy. Which is kind of too bad.


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