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Hear Us Now: Getty/Potts Commentary By Cuno, Felch and Me on “Which Way, L.A.?”

Here is the audio for the “Which Way, L.A.?” segment, hosted by Warren Olney, about Timothy Potts‘ appointment to the directorship of the J. Paul Getty Museum, effective Sept.1. (It aired tonight at 7 p.m., LA time, on KCRW, Southern California’s public radio station.)

Ours is the lead topic in a longer program. You’ll hear me join in at about 13:16 into the podcast. (My commentary was informed by my phone interview on Thursday with Potts.) And below, for background, are links to some of the documents referred to during our conversation.


Here are documents that we discussed:

LA Times reporter Jason Felch‘s post on the Chasing Aphrodite blog, where he reproduced a memo from Getty president James Cuno to his staff, informing them about a restructuring of the J. Paul Getty Trust that will remove certain financial and administrative responsibilities from the museum director, giving them instead to officials at the trust who oversee all four Getty programs (conservation, research, grant-giving foundation and the museum).

I found Cuno’s plan problematic, as you will hear. I think it institutionalizes the encroachment of the Trust into the museum director’s proper prerogatives—an issue that, in part, caused former Getty Museum director Michael Brand to come into conflict with the trust’s former president, the late James Wood. I was surprised that Potts would accede to this shrinking of the museum director’s financial and administrative role. (However, his munificent compensation (scroll down), which Felch discovered hiding in plain sight on the Getty’s model-of-transparency website, may help make Potts more flexible.)

—The Getty Museum’s antiquities-collecting policy (see items 3 and 4), which neither Timothy Potts (in his interview with me last week) nor James Cuno (on today’s program) seemed to get quite right. As I noted on the show, the Getty’s standard is more stringent than the “1970 bright line” that they both referred to (and that other museums observe, with some exceptions). It would be good if they both knew and acknowledged this significant difference (which Cuno tries to say is insignificant.)

—The now repudiated former antiquities-collecting guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors, involving a rolling 10-year-rule for antiquities acquisitions, which Timothy Potts helped to draft. These rules, making it easier to acquire possibly hot objects (after a 10-year cooling-off period), were superseded by these guidelines, requiring museums to post on a new Object Registry any future antiquities acquisitions that lack a documented ownership history going back at least to November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention governing cultural-property transactions in those nations (including the U.S.) that have adopted it.

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