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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      ROSE

      This milky pink boomed into popularity because of a marketing ploy, a mistress, and its ambiguous origins.

      In an effort to compete with the renowned Meissen porcelain factory, the French Sèvres manufactory recruited the glamorous Madame de Pompadour (mistress to King Louis XV). Like a smart sponsorship deal, Sèvres gave her all the porcelain she requested. 

      Introduced in 1757, this rich pink exploded on the scene thanks to favoritism by Madame Pompadour herself. 

      The glaze itself had a weird history. To the Europeans it looked Chinese, and to the Chinese it was European. It was made based on a secret 17th-century glassmaker’s technique, involving mixing glass with flecks of gold.

      For more on colors and their often surprising histories, check out The Brilliant History of Color in Art.

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