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Timothy Potts' past and the Getty's future

March 11, 2012 | 12:07 pm

Kimbell HeadofanAthlete2
The art collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum regularly adds exceptional works, such as an exceedingly rare, early Italian Renaissance portrait drawing -- which might be an even rarer early Renaissance artist's self-portrait drawing -- by Piero del Pollaiuolo (circa 1443–96). The Getty snagged it at a January auction.

Still, the museum's collection has always seemed to lag more than it should, given the Getty's huge financial resources. Turnover in the museum director's office might be part of the reason why.

Three directors have overseen the museum since the Getty Center opened in December 1997, and the plum job has been vacant for the last two years. That will change in September, when Timothy Potts arrives to assume the directorship. Currently in England at Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum, Potts was formerly director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas -- a longtime Getty collecting rival. Among his acquisitions there was an exceptional Roman bronze head of an athlete, once mistakenly thought to be part of a Venetian Baroque sculpture.

What might the appointment mean for the future of the Getty's permanent collection? In Sunday Calendar's Art & Books, I'll consider some of the possibilities. Read the Critic's Notebook here.

[Update: An earlier version of this post misstated the location of the Fitzwilliam Museum.]

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Roman, Head of an Athlete (Apoxyomenos), circa 2nd–1st century B.C.; probably after Lysippos (Greek, circa 365–310 B.C.), cast bronze; Credit: Kimbell Art Museum