As we approach the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Getty Center, which brought the Getty’s four programs together in a single place for the first time, we took the occasion to refocus the mission statement of the Getty Trust and those of the Getty programs—the Conservation Institute, Foundation, Museum, and Research Institute.
Together these mission statements emphasize our commitment to serving Los Angeles and the world, to building and sharing our collections with both the broadest possible public and specialized professional and scholarly communities, and to discovering and disseminating new knowledge on multiple platforms in print and online.
The Trust’s new mission statement reads as follows:
The J. Paul Getty Trust is a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to critical thinking in the presentation, conservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy. Through the collective and individual work of its constituent Programs—the Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Foundation, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Getty Research Institute—it pursues its mission in Los Angeles and throughout the world, serving both the general interested public and a wide range of professional communities with the conviction that a greater and more profound sensitivity to and knowledge of the visual arts and their many histories is crucial to the promotion of a vital and civil society.
You will see that up front we emphasize critical thinking. Previously we had stressed critical seeing. But the more we thought about it, seeing seemed too passive: it’s what we do when simply opening our eyes. Of course, it may become looking, as in looking for something or someone. But that is just a more focused way of seeing. It uses the mind only to the extent that we recognize someone or something we were looking for.
Critical thinking is something altogether different. It uses the mind to examine and make sense of something. And thus it underpins everything we do at the Getty, whether in the acquisition and analysis of works of art, the investigation of our discipline’s literary sources, the selection of scholars, the examination of artistic materials and the environmental conditions affecting art and architecture, the training of conservators, the analysis of project partners, the consideration of new grant programs and grantees, or the analysis of administrative, legal, financial, communication, and investment options. Everything we do and every decision we make in pursuit of our mission involves and requires critical thinking.
I think these mission statements capture the true essence of the Getty: a popular and specialized resource for the presentation, preservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy at home and around the world. No other art institution is quite like the Getty. And it is incumbent upon us to deploy our human and material resources to the benefit of our diverse public and to the advancement of our domain.
For reference, here is the previous Getty Trust mission statement, adopted in 2007:
One of the largest supporters of arts in the world, the J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution that focuses on the visual arts in all their dimensions. The Getty serves both the general public and a wide range of professional communities in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Through the work of the four Getty programs—the Museum, Research Institute, Conservation Institute, and Foundation—the Getty aims to further knowledge and nurture critical seeing through the growth and presentation of its collections and by advancing the understanding and preservation of the world’s artistic heritage. The Getty pursues this mission with the conviction that cultural awareness, creativity, and aesthetic enjoyment are essential to a vital and civil society.