J. Paul Getty Museum

Last updated

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Aerial Getty Museum.jpg
J. Paul Getty Museum
Interactive fullscreen map
Established1974 (1974)
Location1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California; and 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates 34°4′39″N118°28′30″W / 34.07750°N 118.47500°W / 34.07750; -118.47500 Coordinates: 34°4′39″N118°28′30″W / 34.07750°N 118.47500°W / 34.07750; -118.47500
Type Art museum
Visitors2,023,467 (2016) [1]
Director Timothy Potts
Website www.getty.edu/museum/

The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as the Getty, is an art museum in Los Angeles, California housed on two campuses: the Getty Center and Getty Villa. [1]


The Getty Center is located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles and features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, decorative arts, and photographs from the inception of photography through present day from all over the world. [2] [3] The original Getty museum, the Getty Villa, is located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles and displays art from Ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. [4]


In 1974, J. Paul Getty opened a museum in a re-creation of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum on his property in Malibu, California. [5] In 1982, the museum became the richest in the world when it inherited US$1.2 billion. [6] In 1983, after an economic downturn in what was then West Germany, the Getty Museum acquired 144 illuminated medieval manuscripts from the financially struggling Ludwig Collection in Aachen; John Russell, writing in The New York Times , said of the collection, "One of the finest holdings of its kind ever assembled, it is quite certainly the most important that was in private hands." [7] In 1997, the museum moved to its current location in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles; the Malibu museum, renamed the "Getty Villa", was renovated and reopened in 2006.


The Getty attracts approximately 1.8 million visitors a year. J. Paul Getty Museum 2015.jpg
The Getty attracts approximately 1.8 million visitors a year.

A suite of interactive multimedia tools called GettyGuide allows visitors to access information about exhibitions. Within the museum, the GettyGuide multimedia player provides commentary from curators and conservators on many works of art.

Architect Richard Meier chose beige-colored Italian travertine panels to cover the retaining walls and to serve as paving stones for the arrival plaza and museum courtyard. J. Paul Getty Museum courtyard.jpg
Architect Richard Meier chose beige-colored Italian travertine panels to cover the retaining walls and to serve as paving stones for the arrival plaza and museum courtyard.

The controversies with Italy and Greece

In the 1970s and 1980s, the curator, Jiří Frel, designed a tax manipulation scheme which expanded the museum collection of antiquities, essentially buying artifacts of dubious provenance, as well as a number of artifacts generally considered fakes, such as the Getty kouros. In 1984, Frel was demoted, and in 1986, he resigned. [10]

The Getty is involved in a controversy regarding proper title to some of the artwork in its collection. The museum's previous curator of antiquities, Marion True (hired by Frel), was indicted in Italy in 2005 (along with famed dealer Robert E. Hecht) on criminal charges relating to trafficking in stolen antiquities. Similar charges have been addressed by the Greek authorities. The primary evidence in the case came from the 1995 raid of a Geneva, Switzerland, warehouse which had contained a fortune in stolen artifacts. Italian art dealer Giacomo Medici was arrested in 1997; his operation was thought to be "one of the largest and most sophisticated antiquities networks in the world, responsible for illegally digging up and spiriting away thousands of top-drawer pieces and passing them on to the most elite end of the international art market". [11] In 2005 True was forced to tender her resignation by the Board of Trustees, which announced her early retirement. Italy allowed the statute of limitations of the charges filed against her to expire in October 2010. [12]

In a letter to the J. Paul Getty Trust on December 18, 2006, True stated that she was being made to "carry the burden" for practices which were known, approved, and condoned by the Getty's board of directors. [13] True is currently under investigation by Greek authorities over the acquisition of a 2,500-year-old funerary wreath, that was illegally excavated and smuggled outside of the country. The wreath, along with a 6th-century BC statue of a kore, have been returned to Greece and are currently exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. [14] Additionally, a 2,400-year-old, black limestone stele and a marble votive relief dating from about 490 BC were also returned.

The succulent garden at the museum The Succulent Garden at the Getty Museum.jpg
The succulent garden at the museum

On November 20, 2006, the director of the museum, Michael Brand, announced that 26 disputed pieces were to be returned to Italy, but not the Victorious Youth, which is still claimed by the Italian authorities. In 2007, the Los Angeles J. Paul Getty Museum was forced to return 40 artifacts, including a 5th-century BC statue of the goddess Aphrodite, which was looted from Morgantina, an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily. [15] The Getty Museum resisted the requests of the Italian government for nearly two decades, only to admit later that "there might be 'problems'" attached to the acquisition." [16] In 2006, Italian senior cultural official Giuseppe Proietti said: "The negotiations haven't made a single step forward." Only after he suggested the Italian government "to take cultural sanctions against the Getty, suspending all cultural cooperation," [17] did the J. Paul Getty Museum return the antiquities.

In another unrelated case in 1999, the Getty Museum had to hand over three antiquities to Italy after determining they were stolen. The objects included a Greek red-figure kylix from the 5th-century BC, signed by the painter Onesimos and the potter Euphronios as potter, looted from the Etruscan site of Cerveteri; a torso of the god Mithra from the 2nd-century AD, and the head of a youth by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos. [18]

In 2016, the terracotta head of the Greek god Hades was returned to Sicily (Italy). The archaeological artifact was looted from Morgantina in the 1970s. The Getty museum purchased the terracotta head of Hades in 1985 from the New York collector Maurice Tempelsman, who had purchased it from the London dealer Robin Symes. Getty records show the museum paid $530,000 for it. [19] [20] On December 21, 2016, the head of Hades was added to the collection of the archaeological museum of Aidone, where it joined the statue of Demeter, the mother of his consort Persephone. Sicilian archaeologists found a blue curl that was missing from Hades' beard, and so it proved the origin of the terracotta head.[ citation needed ]

Response during the COVID-19 pandemic

Many museums turned to their existing social media presences to engage their audience online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Instagram accounts such as the Dutch Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine (“between art and quarantine”) and Covid Classics, the Getty sponsored the Getty Museum Challenge, inviting people to use everyday objects to recreate works of art and share their creations on social media, prompting thousands of submissions. [21] [22] The museum was among those singled out for particular praise by industry analysts for their successful social media content strategy during the shutdown, both for the challenge [23] [24] and for incorporating its works into the popular video game Animal Crossing . [25]

Selected paintings collection highlights

Selected objects collection highlights

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Iraq Museum</span> National museum of Iraq

The Iraq Museum is the national museum of Iraq, located in Baghdad. It is sometimes informally called the National Museum of Iraq, a recent phenomenon influenced by other nations' naming of their national museums; The Iraq Museum's name is inspired by the name of the British Museum, however. The Iraq Museum contains precious relics from the Mesopotamian, Abbasid and Persian civilizations. It was looted during and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Despite international efforts, only some of the stolen artifacts have been returned. After being closed for many years while being refurbished, and rarely open for public viewing, the museum was officially reopened in February 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Art theft</span> Stealing of paintings or sculptures from museums

Art theft, sometimes called artnapping, is the stealing of paintings, sculptures, or other forms of visual art from galleries, museums or other public and private locations. Stolen art is often resold or used by criminals as collateral to secure loans. Only a small percentage of stolen art is recovered—an estimated 10%. Many nations operate police squads to investigate art theft and illegal trade in stolen art and antiquities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Villa of the Papyri</span> Ancient Roman villa in Ercolano, Italy

The Villa of the Papyri was an ancient Roman villa in Herculaneum, in what is now Ercolano, southern Italy. It is named after its unique library of papyri, discovered in 1750. The Villa was considered to be one of the most luxurious houses in all of Herculaneum and in the Roman world. Its luxury is shown by its exquisite architecture and by the very large number of outstanding works of art discovered, including frescoes, bronzes and marble sculpture which constitute the largest collection of Greek and Roman sculptures ever discovered in a single context.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Archaeological Museum, Naples</span> Museum in Naples, Italy

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples is an important Italian archaeological museum, particularly for ancient Roman remains. Its collection includes works from Greek, Roman and Renaissance times, and especially Roman artifacts from the nearby Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum sites. From 1816 to 1861 it was known as Real Museo Borbonico.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ancient Greek sculpture</span> Sculpture of ancient Greece

The sculpture of ancient Greece is the main surviving type of fine ancient Greek art as, with the exception of painted ancient Greek pottery, almost no ancient Greek painting survives. Modern scholarship identifies three major stages in monumental sculpture in bronze and stone: the Archaic, Classical (480–323) and Hellenistic. At all periods there were great numbers of Greek terracotta figurines and small sculptures in metal and other materials.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Archaeological Museum, Athens</span> National museum in Athens, Greece

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity. It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world and contains the richest collection of Greek Antiquity artifacts worldwide. It is situated in the Exarcheia area in central Athens between Epirus Street, Bouboulinas Street and Tositsas Street while its entrance is on the Patission Street adjacent to the historical building of the Athens Polytechnic university.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Getty Villa</span> Art museum in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, United States

The Getty Villa is at the easterly end of the Malibu coast in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, United States. One of two campuses of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Villa is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD, including the Lansdowne Heracles and the Victorious Youth. The UCLA/Getty Master's Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation is housed on this campus.

Robert Emmanuel Hecht, Jr. was an American antiquities art dealer based in Paris.

Cornelius Clarkson Vermeule III was an American scholar of ancient art and curator of classical art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1957 to 1996. He was also well known as a numismatist. He also used the pseudonyms Wentworth Bunsen, Isao Tsukinabe and Northwold Nuffler.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Looted art</span> Art that was taken illegally

Looted art has been a consequence of looting during war, natural disaster and riot for centuries. Looting of art, archaeology and other cultural property may be an opportunistic criminal act or may be a more organized case of unlawful or unethical pillage by the victor of a conflict. The term "looted art" reflects bias, and whether particular art has been taken legally or illegally is often the subject of conflicting laws and subjective interpretations of governments and people; use of the term "looted art" in reference to a particular art object implies that the art was taken illegally.

<i>Victorious Youth</i> Bronze statue sometimes attributed to Greek sculptor Lysippos

The Victorious Youth, Getty Bronze, also known as Atleta di Fano, or Lisippo di Fano is a Greek bronze sculpture, made between 300 and 100 BC, in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Pacific Palisades, California. Many underwater bronzes have been discovered along the Aegean and Mediterrean coast; in 1900 sponge divers found the Antikythera Youth and the portrait head of a Stoic, at Antikythera, the standing Poseidon of Cape Artemision in 1926, the Croatian Apoxyomenos in 1996 and various bronzes until 1999. The Victorious Youth was found in the summer of 1964 in the sea off Fano on the Adriatic coast of Italy, snagged in the nets of an Italian fishing trawler. In the summer of 1977, The J. Paul Getty Museum purchased the bronze statue and it remains in the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. Bernard Ashmole, an archaeologist and art historian, was asked to inspect the sculpture by a Munich art dealer Heinz Herzer; he and other scholars attributed it to Lysippos, a prolific sculptor of Classical Greek art. The research and conservation of the Victorious Youth dates from the 1980s to the 1990s, and is based on studies in classical bronzes, and ancient Mediterranean specialists collaboration with the Getty Museum. The entire sculpture was cast in one piece; this casting technique is called the “lost wax” method; the sculpture was first created in clay with support to allow hot air to melt the wax creating a mold for molten bronze to be poured into, making a large bronze Victorious Youth. More recently, scholars have been more concerned with the original social context, such as where the sculpture was made, for what context and who he might be. Multiple interpretations of where the Youth was made and who the Youth is, are expressed in scholarly books by Jiri Frel, Paul Getty Museum curator, from 1973 to 1986, and Carol Mattusch, Professor of Art History at George Mason University specializing in Greek and Roman art with a focus in classical bronzes.

Giacomo Medici is an Italian antiquities smuggler and art dealer who was convicted in 2004 of dealing in stolen ancient artifacts. His operation was thought to be "one of the largest and most sophisticated antiquities networks in the world, responsible for illegally digging up and spiriting away thousands of top-drawer pieces and passing them on to the most elite end of the international art market".

Marion True was the former curator of antiquities for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. True was indicted on April 1, 2005 by an Italian court, on criminal charges accusing her of participating in a conspiracy that laundered stolen artifacts through private collections and creating a fake paper trail; the Greeks later followed suit. The trial brought to light many questions about museum administration, repatriation, and ethics.

Robin Symes is a now-disgraced British antiquities dealer who was unmasked as a key player in an international criminal network that traded in looted archaeological treasures. Symes and his long-term partner Christos Michaelides met and formed a business partnership in the 1970s, and Symes became one of Britain's most prominent and successful antiquities dealers. However, after Michaelides died accidentally in 1999, his family took legal action to recover his share of the Symes company's assets, and when the matter went to trial, Symes was found to have lied in his evidence about the extent and value of his property; he was subsequently charged with and convicted of contempt of court, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment Ongoing investigations by Italian authorities revealed in January 2016 that Symes' involvement in the illegal antiquities trade was even more extensive than previously thought, and that he had hidden a vast hoard of looted antiquities in 45 crates at the Geneva Freeport storage warehouse in Switzerland for 15 years, in order to conceal them from Michaelides' family.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Etruscan art</span> Art movement

Etruscan art was produced by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy between the 10th and 1st centuries BC. From around 750 BC it was heavily influenced by Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct characteristics. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta, wall-painting and metalworking especially in bronze. Jewellery and engraved gems of high quality were produced.

The antiquities trade is the exchange of antiquities and archaeological artifacts from around the world. This trade may be illicit or completely legal. The legal antiquities trade abides by national regulations, allowing for extraction of artifacts for scientific study whilst maintaining archaeological and anthropological context. The illicit antiquities trade involves non-scientific extraction that ignores the archaeological and anthropological context from the artifacts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Getty kouros</span> Greek kouros statue, possible forgery, at the Getty Museum

The Getty kouros is an over-life-sized statue in the form of a late archaic Greek kouros. The dolomitic marble sculpture was bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, in 1985 for ten million dollars and first exhibited there in October 1986.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rembrandt in Southern California</span> Rembrandt paintings held in collections in Southern California

Fourteen Rembrandt paintings are held in collections in Southern California. This accumulation began with J. Paul Getty's purchase of the Portrait of Marten Looten in 1938, and is now the third-largest concentration of Rembrandt paintings in the United States. Portrait of Marten Looten is now housed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

<i>Lansdowne Heracles</i> Roman sculpture of Heracles

The Lansdowne Heracles is a Roman marble sculpture of about 125 CE. Today it is in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum's Getty Villa on the Malibu Coast, Los Angeles. The statue represents the hero Heracles as a beardless Lysippic youth grasping the skin of the Nemean lion with his club upon his shoulder. The work was discovered in 1790 in Tivoli, Italy, on the site of Hadrian's Villa, where many fine Hadrianic copies and pastiches of Greek sculptures had been discovered since the 16th century. Today, the sculpture is considered to be an example of Roman-era improvisations on the Greek sculptural style of the fourth century BCE rather than a copy of a specific Greek original.

Jiří Frel was a Czech and American archaeologist. Between 1973 and 1986 he served as a curator for the J. Paul Getty Museum. He is credited with the expansion of the collection of antiquities of the museum, but he was also involved in a number of controversies, including a tax manipulation scheme to buy artifacts of dubious provenance and purchase of a number of artifacts widely considered to be fake.


  1. 1 2 "Visitor Figures 2016" (PDF). The Art Newspaper Review. April 2017. p. 14. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  2. "About the Museum (Getty Museum)". www.getty.edu. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  3. "Photographs | the J. Paul Getty Museum". www.getty.edu. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  4. "Visit the Getty". Getty.edu. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  5. "The Getty Villa to Open January 28, 2006". Press Release. J. Paul Getty Trust. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  6. McGill, Douglas C. (March 4, 1987). "Getty, The Art World's Big Spender". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  7. Eric Pace (July 23, 1996), Peter Ludwig, 71, German Art Collector, Dies New York Times .
  8. "The J. Paul Getty Trust". The Getty. J. Paul Getty Museum. Archived from the original on May 26, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  9. "The Getty Center - Architecture". The Getty. J. Paul Getty Museum. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  10. Frammolino, Ralph (May 13, 2006). "Jiri Frel, 82; Colorful Curator Who Left Getty Under a Cloud". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  11. Men's Vogue , Nov/Dec 2006, Vol. 2, No. 3, pg. 46.
  12. Felch, Jason and Ralph Frammolino (2011), Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pp. 265–66, 312.
  13. Felch, Jason; Frammolino, Ralph (December 29, 2006). "Getty lets her take fall, ex-curator says". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  14. "$1.5 mn Macedonian Gold Wreath Attracts Greek Populace". elitechoice.org. March 30, 2007.
  15. Ariel, David (August 1, 2007). "Getty to Return Antiquities to Italy". Forbes .
  16. Povoledo, Elisabetta (July 4, 2007). "In a Tug of War, Ancient Statue Is Symbol of Patrimony". The New York Times.
  17. "Getty will return Aphrodite statue if it has origins in Italy". North County Times . November 22, 2006.
  18. Slayman, Andrew (May–June 1999). "Getty Returns Italian Artifacts". Archaeology. 52 (3).
  19. "Getty Museum to return Hades terracotta head to Sicily" . Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  20. "Los Angeles - Head of Hades returned to Italy". Farnesina. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  21. Barnes, Sara (May 24, 2020). "People Recreate Works of Art With Objects Found at Home During Self-Quarantine". My Modern Met. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  22. Waldorf, Sarah; Stephan, Annelisa (March 30, 2020). "Getty Artworks Recreated with Household Items by Creative Geniuses the World Over". J. Paul Getty Museum. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  23. Crace, John (April 6, 2020). "Coronavirus art challenge: how a pan turned me into the Duke of Urbino". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077. Archived from the original on April 13, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  24. "Put These Artistic Masterpieces Re-created With Household Items in a Museum". Time. Archived from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  25. "Your 'Animal Crossing' obsession is about to get worse. Blame the Getty Art Generator". Los Angeles Times. April 1, 2020. Archived from the original on April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 19, 2020.