GETTY: He was the world’s richest man: oil tycoon, hypochondriac, philanderer and penny pincher — except when it came to his addiction to art. Late in life he found himself alone, and looked to his mediocre art collection to build his legacy. When he died in 1976, he left his fortune to the small Malibu museum that bore his name, making it the world’s richest museum overnight.
FREL: A maverick Czech professor who Getty hired to be his first antiquities curator. After Getty’s death, Frel orchestrated a tax fraud scheme to build the Getty’s antiquities collection, purchased several million-dollar fakes and lined his own pockets in the process.
WILLIAMS: An attorney and former head of the SEC, Williams built the provincial museum into the Getty Trust, a cultural institution with global reach. But he was troubled by what was going on in the antiquities department. In the early 1980s, he asked his staff, “Are we willing to buy stolen property for some higher aim?” The answer proved to be yes.
WALSH: An expert in Dutch painting and the first director of the Getty Museum, Walsh approved the museum’s questionable acquisitions and devised policies that allowed the Getty to continue collecting looted art while publicly denouncing the illicit trade. He believed a curator’s most important trait was “object lust.”
TRUE: Frel’s successor, True’s first task was to clean up the mess left behind by his corrupt tenure. She quickly set out to make her own mark on the Getty’s collection, pursuing the acquisition of the statue of Aphrodite, which she said reflected “the acme of human artistic achievement.” She spent a decade building the Getty’s antiquities collections into one of the finest in the country before denouncing the corrupt art market she had encountered. But it was too late: just as she was building her reputation as a reformer, Italian authorities stumbled across a trove of evidence that exposed her questionable past.
GRIBBON: Walsh’s successor as museum director, Gribbon took a hard line against Italian demands for the return of looted art, prolonging the controversy.
MUNITZ: Williams’ controversial successor as Getty CEO, Munitz trimmed the Getty’s budget while spending freely on himself. His lavish lifestyle was exposed by the LA Times and investigated by the California Attorney General, eventually leading to his resignation. His tenure left deep psychic scars on many at the Getty.
BRAND: Hired as museum director after Gribbon’s abrupt resignation, Brand convinced the Getty board to cut a deal with Italian authorities, returning 40 of the museum’s most prized antiquities in exchange for the promise of broad cultural cooperation. He also pushed the museum to adopt a strict acquisition policy that became a model for museums across the country. Soon after, he was fired after clashing with the Getty’s CEO over budget issues.
Pingback: Tabulous Design