Behind the Scenes, Getty Research Institute

Study and Play for Visiting Scholars at the Getty Research Institute

Getty Research Institute visiting scholars on the GRI's West Terrace

Getty Research Institute visiting scholars on the GRI's West Terrace

Each year, the Getty Research Institute invites scholars and artists to work on projects that go hand in hand with a chosen theme. This year’s theme is The Display of Art, a broad, deep topic examining how ideas and objects are brought together to create meanings.

Every scholar comes to the Getty with an individual project, which he or she explores through the Getty’s library and collections at the Center and the Villa. Scholars come from around the world—including, this year, from China, Colombia, and Kazakhstan. Some stay for a few months, others for the full academic year, from October to June.

The topics are as varied as the scholars themselves: spectatorship and Chinese cinema, painting and poetry in the age of Augustus, and the political and religious use of monumental sculpture in early imperial China, just to name three.

As an intern at the Getty Research Institute, one of my tasks was helping staff get ready for the new arrivals. When they came, it was as though an international summit had hit the GRI! I was amazed by the multiple conversations in French, Italian, German, and languages beyond, making English the minority. My two years of Italian at UCLA were going to come in handy! And not only was there an exchange of language, but art, books, and even recipes were passed around.

What is it like for the scholars? I spoke to Isabelle Flour, a doctoral candidate at the Sorbonne in Paris, who will be staying with us until June 2011. Her research examines the reproduction of architecture in museums, the display of ornament, and period rooms. Not only is this Isabelle’s first time at the Getty, it’s her first visit to California. She was excited to come here, amazed by the depth of the scholarly resources available in the GRI’s library and special collections, and delighted by how welcoming and friendly everyone has been. In addition to her research, she’s had a great time exploring the Getty Center, learning about her fellow scholars, and going on great adventures throughout California.

Yes, the scholars are not only diving into art and research, but are also experiencing what California has to offer. They’ve visited Hearst Castle, hiked Temescal Canyon, and toured downtown Los Angeles.

Getty Research Institute visiting scholars explore downtown L.A. and Walt Disney Concert Hall

Scholars explore downtown L.A. and Walt Disney Concert Hall

Scholars explore downtown L.A. and Walt Disney Concert Hall

The GRI Scholars engage directly with their peers, Getty colleagues, and invited guests in special presentations of their research throughout the year. I’m looking forward to hearing from this entire interesting and diverse group, learning as much as possible about their research projects, interesting stories about where they come from, and maybe even polishing my Italian!

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit wacko. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.


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