Another Matched Set for the Getty

The Getty Museum has acquired an 18th-century desk organizer — originally made to sit atop a small, ornate desk long in the museum's collection. The brass, tortoiseshell, and mother of pearl-veneered ensemble was made in Paris around 1710 for Maximilian II Emanuel, exiled Elector of Bavaria. Dealers often separate pieces that were meant to be together, and museums occasionally manage to reunite them. In this case, it's not hard to guess why some dealer separated the two pieces. The new find, a footed set of small compartments for papers or writing implements, obscures the desk's exuberantly pictorial top (below). Desk and top are now displayed together in the Getty's Place Vendome library period room.


Anonymous said…
Your blog entry caught my attention because it somewhat relates to a message I sent a few days ago to the Getty Museum's new blog. The forum's moderator apparently (and perhaps understandably) has chosen not to run it.

I'm forwarding a copy of it and hope it will prompt you in the future to dig into the matter of the way the Getty adds (or doesn't add) to its collections. To also offer your opinion on whether the point is related to -- most certainly -- the reportedly irresponsible management style of ex-CEO Barry Munitz and, more recently, a conflict with the operating philosophy of ex-director Michael Brand---who in an interview said (apparently disapprovingly): "The museum has retained a much smaller art acquisition fund for purchases not deemed 'major.'"


Sorry if I'm a wet rag upon the premiere of your new blog and message forum, but...

I was looking at the PDF files containing lists of new acquisitions over the past few years of your institution and, for contrast, also going through the PDF files covering several years' worth of new acquisitions of another museum, located on the East Coast (and which shall remain nameless--but I'll give the hint that it's a famous one located in a large park). I was quite surprised to see how comparatively little has been added to the Getty's collections. That's even truer if the listing of individual photographs is disregarded and if special one-time gifts like the sculptures from Ray Stark are excluded. Moreover, that's even taking into account your not being a so-called encylopedic museum. And that's not adjusting for the loss of parts of your collection now returned to Europe.

I've long assumed that when a purchase of artwork by the Getty was given a lot of press it was due only to the specialness and value (artistic and otherwise) of that work. In other words, I've long assumed that in the meantime a lot of other collecting was occurring, but was under the radar due to the more esoteric, obscure nature of the acquisition. Particularly if it involved decorative objects, small sculptures, etc. But based on your own records, there really hasn't been all that much going on beyond the occasional glare of a media-spotlighted addition. And, again, I'm using as a counterpoint that other unnamed museum referred to above.

What are you people doing?! It's bad enough you got into the game quite late in life, when most of the world's great artworks already had been snapped up. It's even worse that your collection still needs a lot of enhancements. But to make matters both puzzling and pathetic, even at this late date you're still dawdling and doodling, and hemming and hawing.

I recall the Los Angeles Times art critic sniping at you some time ago for what I'll characterize as your "tommorrow is another day" way of collecting. I now realize that based on your PDF files, he had more of a point than I gave him credit for at the time.