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News Flash: David Bomford to Leave Getty; James Cuno to Assume Acting Directorship

Bomford1.jpg
David Bomford

More instability has hit the J. Paul Getty Museum.

A bombshell from its press office exploded in my inbox this afternoon: David Bomford, the museum’s acting director for almost two years (and associate director before that), is leaving on Feb. 1, to “return to London where he plans to pursue research, scholarship and writing,” according to the Getty’s press release. In another unexpected development, James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, announced that he will assume the acting directorship, while the executive search drags on…

…or maybe doesn’t. One possible scenario could be that, after a decent interval, Cuno permanently
assumes both the trust president’s and museum director’s post—something that LA Times art critic Christopher Knight has previously recommended.
My guess is that Bomford may have decided to jump ship because he saw
that he was not getting the permanent top spot. All will become
clearer in the fullness of time.

The prolonged search suggests that it may be hard to find a distinguished museum director who is willing to subordinate himself to the commanding Cuno, who arrived in LA with strong ideas from his own extensive experience of how a museum should be run.

As CultureGrrl readers may remember, the Getty Museum’s previous permanent director, Michael Brand, who precipitously stepped down in January 2010, suggested in a candid conversation with me shortly after his departure that differences related to the division of power between him and the trust’s then president, the late James Wood, contributed to the unraveling of their working relationship.

For now, the LA Times has run only a very short announcement about this latest Getty turmoil.

Ironically, in an interview published in the LA Times just 10 days ago, Cuno told Patt Morrison:

It’s been an unstable time, and the challenge is to bring stability while advancing its [the Getty’s] mission.

That challenge just got a little bigger.

an ArtsJournal blog