Ten days ago some Australians were speculating in and out of print that countryman Timothy Potts, erstwhile director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas and now in that job at Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum, would take the helm at Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales. In no time flat the Sydney job went to Michael Brand, another countryman and erstwhile director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Today, the Getty Trust announced that Potts would become director of its museum, filling a vacancy created by Brand's departure more than two years ago.
Confused? Don't be. That's why art museum directorships are often characterized as a game of musical chairs.
At the Getty, the game is not necessarily fun. With Potts now coming aboard (he starts work in September), four talented museum people will have occupied the director's office in the last 12 years. The turnover is not hard to explain. Alone among major art museums in the United States, the Getty's director reports to a paid president, not to a board of trustees.
After years of leadership turmoil and turnover, the Getty Museum is ramping up for a new chapter. At an 11:30 staff meeting Tuesday, the relatively new Getty Trust head Jim Cuno announced his decision to hire Timothy Potts as his new museum director, starting Sept. 1.
The position has been vacant since the early 2010 departure of Michael Brand, who had reported to the late James Wood, who died in June 2010. Cuno, who took over Wood’s position as the head of all Getty branches last fall, repeatedly said that hiring a new museum director — one with an “appetite” for big acquisitions — was his top priority.
A Sydney native who early on ran the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, Potts, 53, is currently the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge in England. He is best known in the U.S. for running the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1998 to 2007, which compares to the Getty Museum in the size of its acquisition budget. During his tenure at the Kimbell, he made several high-profile acquisitions, including Donatello, Michelozzo and Bernini sculptures.
Visitors to the Getty Center can expect a slightly less scenic experience for the rest of winter and much of the spring. The famed outdoor central garden at the Brentwood location will be closed to the public from Tuesday through May 27 for upgrades, the museum said.
The Getty said the closure will affect all areas of the garden, including the sculpture garden and surrounding lawn areas. The public will still have access to other outdoor areas, including the Garden Terrace Cafe and two coffee carts with outdoor seating.
Improvements to the central garden will include new railings and planter borders, the museum said.
Artist Robert Irwin created the Getty's central garden, which opened in 1997. The garden covers 134,000 square feet of space and features walkways, a ravine and a stream that flows into a stone waterfall.
-- David Ng
Photo: A view of the Getty Center's central garden. Credit: Robbin Goddard / Los Angeles Times
Former Getty Museum director Michael Brand has surprised the art world yet again — this time by taking a job instead of leaving one. After a six-month global search, the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, Australia, announced Friday that Brand has been appointed the museum’s new director.
Brand will be the ninth person to assume the role in the gallery’s 120-year history when he steps into the position in the middle of this year, following Edmund Capon’s 33-year tenure.
The native of Australia is currently acting as a consultant to Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum and from 2005 to 2010 served as director of the Getty.
Brand shocked the art world when he left his coveted Getty post 10 months before his five-year contract was to expire. He told the Times in 2010 that leaving "is my decision,” but would not say why he was going: "I really don't want to get into the reasons for my resignation."
Getty officials pointed to a possible “personality clash” and strategic differences between Brand and former Getty Trust President and chief executive James N. Wood.
Down under, the Art Gallery of NSW recently hosted one if its most popular exhibits "First Emperor," featuring China’s long entombed terra-cotta warriors, and is currently showing the touring Picasso collection, 150 of the artist's works from the Musee National Picasso in Paris, which are rarely seen outside of France.
-- Jamie Wetherbe
Photo: Michael Brand. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
Robert E. Hecht Jr., the American art dealer at the center of the trade in Classical antiquities for five decades, died at his home in Paris on Wednesday afternoon. He was 92.
His death comes three weeks after the ambiguous end of his criminal trial in Rome on charges of trafficking in looted antiquities.
Since the 1990s, Hecht had been at the center of a wide-ranging Italian investigation of the illicit antiquities trade. The investigation traced objects from tombs in Italy through a network of smugglers, dealers and private collectors to the display cases of museums in the United States, Europe and beyond.
Pacific Standard Time began its Performance and Public Art Festival on Thursday with Judy Chicago fogging up a corner of the Santa Monica Airport by building pyramids with chilly blocks of dry ice. Walking through it as it was being assembled, I felt slightly disoriented and almost slipped. That’s surely a sign of a successful artwork in a slippery medium.
An outgrowth of the visual art world -- but with DNA in music, dance and theater -- performance art has had many monikers. Time-based art is a catchall. In Vienna, parading around nude, covered in blood, and eroticizing the yucky bits the butcher throws out is known as Actionism. The Getty Research Institute once labeled its exhibition of public experimentation from postwar Japan as “Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art.” In the late '50s and early '60s, there were Happenings.
No longer just a pretension of academic jargon, the word “performative” has become normative. A news release described Hirokazu Kosaka’s “Kalpa,” which took place at the Getty Center Friday night, as a “performative installation.” But the term that characterized the events I took in on the first three days of the festival was public spectacle.
The trial of Robert E. Hecht Jr., the alleged mastermind of an international black market in ancient art, ended with no verdict this week when a three-judge panel in Rome found the time allotted for the trial had expired.
Hecht, a 92-year-old Baltimore native now confined to bed at his home in Paris, has cut a wide swath through the art world since the 1950s, supplying museums and collectors around the world with some of the finest examples of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art.
“I have no idea of where an object was excavated,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It could have been excavated 100 years ago, it could have been excavated an hour ago.”
Throughout that colorful career, Hecht has been dogged by allegations that his wares had been recently looted from archaeological sites and smuggled out of their homeland. It was a claim he never directly denied while maintaining his innocence of the Italian charges, which focused on an alleged conspiracy among dealers he considers rivals.
The ruling brings an ambiguous end to a sweeping investigation that traced relics looted from tombs in Italy through a network of smugglers, dealers and private collectors before appearing on display at museums in the United States, Europe and beyond.
In his first week of teaching at the Claremont graduate school in 1971, James Turrell created a rather loud false alarm. He was planting road flares and aluminum reflectors in alcoves behind the columns of Bridges Auditorium (above) in a performance art piece in which the building appeared to have caught on fire.
“What happened is it was so effective that the fire department was called out,” he said, telling the story by phone Monday. "All of a sudden I heard the sirens approaching." He said he left Roland Reiss, the new head of the program, holding the bag; he had to rush off to join his students at another performance.
Although he is now best known for his light-based installations and earthworks — and his epic, seemingly never-ending Roden Crater installation in Arizona -- Turrell says he did many short-lived, time-based performances early on. One driving force was his interest in light, he said, describing early work at his studio on Main Street in Santa Monica (now a Starbucks) in which he blocked windows and controlled the flow of light in the rooms not just as an installation but as a performance that played out differently for different visitors at different times of day.
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.
We can now cross one person off the list of possible museum directors for the Getty: David Bomford, who has served as the museum’s acting director for nearly two years without much fanfare or criticism, has announced that he is leaving the museum Feb. 1.
In an email sent to Getty colleagues Tuesday, Bomford wrote that he will “return to London, where I plan to continue to pursue research, scholarship and writing.” Deeper in the email, he added: “As you know a search for a permanent director is underway and, until the new Director is hired and in place, [J. Paul Getty Trust CEO and President] Jim Cuno has elected to serve as Acting Director of the Museum.”