Category: Acquisitions

Oil-rich Qatar pays record $250 million for painting

February 3, 2012 |  7:27 am

Paul Cezanne's "The Card Players" has sold to the oil-rich country of Qatar for a record $250 million

In a reminder of the heady days of high-priced art sales, Cezanne's "The Card Players" has sold for more than $250 million, a record price for any work of art.

But it hasn't gone to a major museum such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld or the Barnes Foundation. Those institutions already own works from Cezanne's series depicting card players. This one is owned by the oil-rich country of Qatar.

Word just leaked out on the 2011 sale from a private collector, and was reported by Vanity Fair's website. The sale price leaves the old record -- reportedly $140 million paid for a Jackson Pollock in the pre-recession year of 2006 -- in the dust.

Yes, "$250 million is a fortune," fine arts appraiser Victor Wiener told Vanity Fair. "But you take any art-history course and a 'Card Players' is likely in it. It's a major, major image."

The sale had been rumored for months, he told the magazine, and now "everyone will use this price as a point of departure; it changes the whole art-market structure."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "The Card Players" depicts four men and is believed to be the first in the series by the French post-Impressionist. Next came a larger version, which includes a small child, in the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. The last three depict just two card players.


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-- Sherry Stern

Image: "The Card Players," 1890-95 (oil on canvas). Credit: Musee d'Orsay, / Giraudon / The Bridgeman Art Library International

Chris Burden's 'Metropolis II' on view starting Saturday [Updated]

January 10, 2012 |  1:15 pm


Some artworks are valuable or delicate enough to need extra security. Chris Burden's new art installation, "Metropolis II," is complex enough to need an operator. The miniature city in motion consists of 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized cars, 25 large buildings, 18 lanes of traffic, 13 trains and one human operator.

Lead engineer Zak Cook described the work's complexity during its trial run, covered by the L.A. Times last week. "As you can imagine," he said, "this is a precision machine. These cars are going approximately 240 miles per hour to scale. If you're going 240 miles per hour in a Ferrari and hit a speed bump, you would be flying."

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Getty Research Institute buys dozens of Man Ray datebooks

December 15, 2011 |  3:00 pm

The Getty has long been a leading resource for Man Ray scholars, with some 300 photographs at the museum and some 700 letters at the Getty Research Institute. But two recent acquisitions by the research institute--packed with more letters, photographs, ephemera and, most important, dozens of the artist's datebooks--give a more intimate look at his daily life and daydreaming.

"The nude is always in fashion," wrote the highly versatile Surrealist artist, who valued his painting more than his photography despite the success of the latter. Then he jotted beneath it in the same datebook: "All that is modern today will be old-fashioned and ridiculous tomorrow. But some of the tricks of today may be the truths of tomorrow."

That aphorism-packed notebook, a small Pepys Westminster planner for the year 1953 that the artist actually used for several years to record his thoughts and ideas for projects, came from a private New York collector. The Getty purchased the other agendas (also for an undisclosed price) from the heirs of the artist's friends Michael and Elsa Combe-Martin.

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Getty acquires Manet's moody 'Portrait of Madame Brunet'

December 1, 2011 |  3:00 pm

One painting at a time, the Getty has been trying to address the familiar complaint that its museum grounds are more exciting than the collection inside. Toward that end, it has announced its acquisition of Édouard Manet’s “Portrait of Madame Brunet,” a prime-period, nearly full-length portrait made in the early 1860s.
This portrait of a lady in black standing against a pastoral background is the Getty's first big-ticket acquisition under its new president and CEO, James Cuno. He calls it a “painting by Manet at the height of his most inventive powers, done in the same year, 1863, he painted 'Olympia' and 'Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe.'” Cuno predicts that this work is “going to change our galleries the way Van Gogh’s 'Irises' did.”
The painting was purchased from an unidentified East Coast collector through the New York gallery Luhring Augustine. The price has not been disclosed, and the gallerists, in Miami for the art fairs, did not respond to a request for comment. The Getty paid $26.4 million over two decades ago for its other Manet, "The Rue Mosnier With Flags," from 1878.
The new acquisition, which will go on view Dec. 13, represents a different side of Manet than the politically engaged painter who depicted the flag-decorated street scene of Rue Mosnier. "Madame Brunet" is a classic portrait from the artist’s so-called Spanish period, reflecting the dark, dramatic influence of Goya and Velázquez despite the fact that Manet only spent a week in Spain before returning, homesick, to his native Paris.
The painting shows a woman dressed in black from head to toe staring rather vacantly at the viewer, as she holds one of her gloves at an odd angle. The skirt of her black coat widens generously at the bottom of the canvas like the tree behind her does at top. It is not quite a full-length portrait — a few years after completing the image, Manet evidently cropped the bottom edge of the canvas to resize it, a common practice of his.

Little is known about the woman in the portrait, as there were multiple Brunet families in the artist’s orbit. But according to an account published by Manet’s friend, the art critic Théodore Duret, the sitter burst into tears upon seeing the painting and never claimed the work. The canvas remained with the artist until his death.
Getty senior curator Scott Schaefer said he understands why the sitter rejected the work. “It’s not flattering; it’s a challenging picture,” he said, calling the mood “plaintive” and the image “confounding.” Still, he says, the Getty board of trustees was enthusiastic about the painting. “To be quite honest I thought this was a difficult picture, but the board was attracted to the sitter as well as the fact it was beautifully painted. It’s in extraordinary condition and the blacks are unbelievable.”
He added that the Getty recognized the importance of bringing the work to the L.A. area, which currently has five Manet paintings, including three at the Norton Simon and one small work at the Hammer Museum. “This is a significant addition to what I would call the greater museum of Los Angeles, which is how I present any picture to the board,” said Schaefer.
Asked for her take on the painting this week, Yale art historian and "Manet Manette" author Carol Armstrong spoke of the picture’s “ungainly” and masculine-seeming imagery. “It’s not a beautiful painting, but it’s an important one, which is very characteristic of his early period.”


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--Jori Finkel

Image: "Portrait of Madame Brunet" by Edouard Manet, 1860-63, reworked by 1867. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum.

John Murdoch, director of art collections at Huntington, to retire

October 18, 2011 |  1:16 pm

John Murdoch, 66, who oversees the art galleries at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, has announced that he will be retiring in June 2012.

Murdoch arrived at the Huntington in 2002, in time for a period of collection-building and expansion. Early on he oversaw the completion of architect Fred Fisher’s new Erburu Building, designed to create additional space for the display of American art. After that he led a three-year, $20-million renovation and re-installation of the Huntington mansion, the Italianate villa that houses celebrated British paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds (above) as well as European decorative arts and furniture.

Known for his connoisseurship, Murdoch was hands-on in the placement of every artwork and choice of every wall color in the villa, which reopened to wide acclaim in 2008. Huntington President Steve S. Koblik said in a statement that “his remarkable leadership in restoring the historic Huntington residence and creating a coherent display of European art collections can only be described as awe inspiring.”

Murdoch joined the Huntington after nine years as the gallery director at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Currently based in Pasadena, he says he is considering a return to London.


--Jori Finkel

Photo: The portrait gallery at the Huntington mansion in 2008. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Getty acquires Ed Ruscha photos -- some famous, some hidden

October 6, 2011 | 12:01 am

Ed Ruscha Standard, Amarillo Texas 1962 from Getty Museum
The Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute have acquired two troves of photographs by Ed Ruscha that the Getty says will make its Brentwood campus a key repository for viewers and scholars to consider how photography -- much of it showing grittier L.A. precincts -- has fed the artist’s oeuvre.

"I am humbled and elated to have my work go to the top of the hill," Ruscha said in a statement released by the Getty.

The museum, which previously had no Ruscha photographs, bought 74 prints and two contact sheets from Gagosian Gallery for an undisclosed price; many of those images are street-level or overhead views of Los Angeles that Ruscha incorporated in a series of books he self-published starting in 1962.  Some of the shots became source material for signature Ruscha paintings, including his renderings of a Standard gas station in Amarillo, Texas (photograph pictured), and three mid-1960s Polaroids of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that became studies for his iconic “The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire.”

The other acquisition is Ruscha’s personal archive, “The Streets of Los Angeles,” which the Getty Research Institute will house.  The Getty paid the artist for materials relating to Ruscha’s 1966 book, “Every Building on the Sunset Strip,” which is considered a breakthrough -- and a sort of precursor of the Google Maps “Street View” feature -- because the pictures were drive-by images, shot with an automatic camera mounted in the bed of a moving pickup truck.

Ruscha has continued to photograph L.A.'s streets and is donating more recent unpublished prints,  negatives and film reels to the Getty.

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A major Poussin painting goes to the Kimbell, not the Getty [UPDATED]

September 9, 2011 | 11:49 am

Nicolas Poussin, "Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter
In announcing its newest acquisition, Nicolas Poussin's "Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)," circa 1636-40, Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum said in a press release, "The painting is from Poussin's famous first set of the 'Seven Sacraments,' which has been universally acclaimed, virtually since its creation, as a landmark in the history of art."

And I found myself saying, "I wonder why the Getty didn't buy it?"

Of course, I think the J. Paul Getty Museum should acquire every major Old Master painting that comes on the market, simply because the slowly improving collection needs it. And this is plainly a major Old Master painting, its classically arranged frieze of figures in a landscape reportedly in pristine condition.

The great, pricey Poussin failed to sell at a London auction in December, and the Kimbell struck a private deal to buy it from the trustees of Belvoir Castle, the country estate near Nottingham where the canvas has hung for more than 225 years. (The museum reportedly paid the auction's low estimate, $24.3 million.) An export license to send it to Texas was secured in August.

"We paid a lot of money for it, and it was a stretch," Kimbell director Eric Lee told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We don't have an unlimited budget, but we got it for an absolute steal."

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Getty acquires rare, illuminated Bible from 1200s Italy

September 6, 2011 |  1:28 pm

Abbey Bible
The  J. Paul Getty Museum has added a prized, 750-year-old Bible from Italy to its noted collection of illuminated medieval manuscripts, and the museum says it will go on display Dec. 13 as a highlight of the upcoming exhibition, “Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination 1250-1350.”

The Getty’s announcement says that the so-called Abbey Bible, named for a former British owner, was created in the mid-1200s for a Dominican monastery. According to museum officials, it  “is one of the earliest and finest” illuminated Bibles to have emerged from Bologna in northern Italy, “one of the major centers” where scribes turned Latin scripture into art.

The work’s hallmarks, per the Getty, include “unusually lavish illumination” encompassing “whimsical figures…drolleries, grotesques and dynamic pen flourishes,” as well as rare images of praying monks.

 “Sensitively depicted facial expressions…reveal the artist to be a skilled storyteller, and the pages brim with incident and event,” the Getty says.

The museum wouldn’t say what it spent to acquire the Bible this summer.

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