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Ada Louise Huxtable’s Estate Attorney Discusses Her Getty Surprise


Robert N. Shapiro, partner in Ropes & Gray’s Private Client Group

Speaking to me by phone today, Ada Louise Huxtable‘s estate attorney, Robert Shapiro, declined to confirm or deny that his client had been in discussions with the New York Public Library or other possible recipients of her archives before her last-minute surprise deal with the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Citing the confidentiality of his relationships with clients, he would only say that “she was extremely excited and thrilled with her papers’ and Garth‘s [her late husband’s] papers’ and her estate’s going to the Getty. They were working on a news release and, alas, her health and her death happened to happen first.”

When I noted that the migration of her archives to the West Coast was a great loss for New York City (a far stronger focus of her writings than Los Angeles), Shapiro noted that this resolution was “a good reminder that it’s a big world in which she’s certainly being recognized as she should be.” Am I reading too much into this to see this “good reminder” as a wake-up call and a rebuke to New York institutions, which perhaps weren’t offering Ada Louise what she regarded as appropriate recognition?

I also asked why Huxtable had sold her archives to the Getty, when all the proceeds from her estate (including the proceeds from the Getty’s purchase) were destined for the Los Angeles institution.

His reply:

Personal planning has complex strands to it, related to how one lives one’s life. She was thoughtful about what she was doing and wanted to do and I was here to help her for a long time. We knew her goals and it was a long, thoughtful process.

The addition of the Huxtable Archives to the Special Collections at the Getty Research Institute, he said, meant “great prospects for her legacy both specifically, with her papers, and also philosophically, with the continuing research, thinking, writing and commentating that it will enable.”

So be it.

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