Art, Paintings

Scott Schaefer on the Meaning of Collecting

The Getty Museum’s retiring senior curator of paintings on art, access, and the cab ride he’ll never forget

One of the world’s great experts in European painting, Scott Schaefer is retiring from the Getty Museum this week. In his 14 years here, Scott has made it a point to walk in the galleries daily, asking security guards questions and answering them from the public. He even went undercover at the museum’s information desk once—because he values what you think and feel about the collection he’s helped to build for you.

We asked him to walk with us in the galleries one last time.

The museums in L.A. are so relatively new, Scott has taken to thinking of them collectively as “the greater museum of Los Angeles.”

“To me, it’s one museum in several locations,” said Scott, who also served as curator at LACMA. “There would be no point, for example, in the Getty—or any museum—buying a work of art by an artist who was already here unless it was better than that work or at least equal to it.”

We also asked Scott to divulge his favorite three paintings at the Getty, and share his answers with you here.

Farewell, Scott.

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      I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower—and a troop of tidy, happy villages please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”

      Marianne looked with amazement at Edward, with compassion at her sister. Elinor only laughed.

      —Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, published on October 30, 1811

      Wooded Landscape by Paulus Lieder and Landscape with a Bare Tree and a Ploughman by Leon Bonvin, The J. Paul Getty Museum; Fantastic Oak Tree in the Woods, Carl Wilhelm Kolbe the Elder, The Getty Research Institute

      10/30/14

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