“I was there for the groundbreaking of the Getty Center. I was there for opening day of the Getty Center. I think for a lot of people, it said LA has arrived.”
After nearly 15 years in the making, the Getty Center opened to much fanfare on December 16, 1997. Perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of the surrounding city and coastline, the new campus quickly became an architectural and cultural landmark in Los Angeles. This year marks the Center’s 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, we asked our community to share their Getty memories.
In this episode, Jim Cuno’s last as host and Getty president, he reflects on his time there. We also hear from staff, docents, and members of our community about the opening of the Getty Center and other favorite memories of the site.
“There was a lotta negativity because there was just pictures of Black people. That was one of the critiques, that we just photographed Black people. Said, ‘Yeah. You photograph just white people.’ That was the argument.”
In New York City in 1963, a group of Black photographers came together, naming themselves the Kamoinge Workshop. Translated from the Kikuyu language, kamoinge means a group of people acting together. The artists indeed worked closely together, focusing on reflecting Black life through photographs and increasing Black representation in professional organizations like the American Society of Magazine Photographers (now American Society of Media Photographers). The exhibition Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop showcases members’ work from the 1960s and ’70s.
In this episode, artist Adger Cowans and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) curator Sarah Eckhardt discusses Kamoinge’s history and future as well as the exhibition Working Together. The exhibition is organized by the VFMA and is on view at the Getty Center through October 9, 2022.
“You know, everything is not just red, yellow, blue, and coming from a tube. It can be anything out there in the world. Grab it and use it.”
In 1956, artist Ed Ruscha left his home in Oklahoma and drove with his childhood friend to Los Angeles. Drawn to the city by its palm trees and apparent lack of an established art scene, Ruscha stayed to attend Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), where he aspired to be a sign painter. In the decades since, Ruscha has become a world-renowned artist, but much of his art continues to be informed by LA.
In this episode, Ruscha discusses how he became an artist, his thoughts on his career today, and his decades-long project documenting Sunset Boulevard.
“The camera sort of teaches you to see in a really different way and to experience your environment in a different way, and to pay attention to the act of looking.”
Photographer Uta Barth’s photographs focus on the act of looking. She has long been interested in creating images in which there is no discernable subject, but rather the image or light itself is the subject. Barth’s conceptual photographs examine how we see and how we define foreground and background. Her series are often long-term engagements; she photographs the same place over many months, or even years, to understand how light changes a space over time. She recently completed a series at the Getty Center taken over the course of a year and comprising over 60,000 images. Barth has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
In this episode, Barth discusses her approach to making images through several of her bodies of work including Ground, Figure, and her new Getty series. Her career will be the subject of a retrospective at the Getty Center in fall 2022.
“The underworld, the afterlife, is fairly dank, dark, shadowy; quite frankly, it’s a bit boring. Somewhat like waiting at a bus depot.”
Homer’s Odyssey depicts an afterlife that is relatively dull, with heroic actions and glory reserved for the living. Nonetheless, people in Southern Italy in the fourth century BCE were captivated by the underworld and decorated large funerary vases with scenes of the afterlife—the domain of Hades and Persephone, where sinners like Sisyphus are tortured for eternity and heroes like Herakles and Orpheus performed daring feats. Little is known about precisely how these vases were used and seen in death rituals. A new book by Getty Publications, Underworld: Imagining the Afterlife in Ancient South Italian Vase Painting, brings together 40 such vases and explores new research on them.
In this episode, Getty Museum curator of antiquities David Saunders discusses these enormous and often elaborate vases, explaining the myths they depict and what is known about the ways in which they were used. Saunders is editor of Underworld.
“I had heard the tale and knew what to expect, but it was by far the most damaged painting I had seen. When it arrived, it came into the studio and the damage was almost all that you could see.”
In 2017 Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman-Ochre returned to the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) more than 30 years after it had been stolen off the gallery walls. Because the theft and subsequent treatment of the work had caused significant damage, the UAMA enlisted the Getty Museum and Getty Conservation Institute to help repair the painting. When the work arrived at the Getty in 2019, the damage was so extreme that it was all paintings conservator Laura Rivers could see; prominent cracks and flaking paint obscured the artwork itself. Rivers worked alongside her colleague Douglas MacLennan, a conservation scientist who used advanced analytic methods like X-ray fluorescence and microfade testing to inform their conservation work. The results of their multi-year collaboration are finally on view in the exhibition Conserving de Kooning: Theft and Recovery.
In this episode, Getty Museum conservator Laura Rivers and Getty Conservation Institute scientist Douglas MacLennan discuss their work conserving Woman-Ochre, which is on display at the Getty Center through August 28, 2022.
“There’s been an assumption that any person who stepped foot on French territory in the metropole went free. In fact, enslaved Turks did not go free; they often spent their entire lifetime in servitude.”
Since the Middle Ages, France’s legal tradition as a “Free Soil” state meant that any enslaved person who stepped foot in Continental France would be freed. This led to the widespread misconception that there were no slaves in France after the 14th century. However, galley slavery was still a common and even glorified practice centuries later during the reign of Louis XIV. These people, called turcs or Turks, were often Muslim men who had been captured or purchased. Representations of galley slaves adorned paintings, artillery, medals, and other objects, and were used to express the king’s power.
In this episode, art historian Meredith Martin and historian Gillian Weiss discuss their multidisciplinary study of 17th-century galley slavery and its depictions under Louis XIV. They are authors of the recent book The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Galley Slavery in Louis XIV’s France from Getty Publications.
“This interconnection between Greek tradition and science and mathematics, and the Babylonian traditions in astronomy and all these other very technical and very advanced sciences, this was a moment which really created the basis for science, mathematics, and so on in the Western world, and indeed, throughout the world, in later centuries and millennia.”
For more than a millennium, the Persian empire was the major political and economic force in western Asia. Beginning in the sixth century BCE, three dynasties of Persian rulers created the largest and most complex nation in the world. From the monumental reliefs of the Achaemenid ceremonial capital, Persepolis, to elaborate silver platters that tell the story of David and Goliath, the art and luxury objects of this period demonstrate the Persians’ political power and self-image. At the same time, much of our knowledge of ancient Iran comes from Greek and Roman writings and artworks because of the relationships and rivalries among these civilizations. The exhibition Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World showcases a wide range objects from the three cultures that shed new light on ancient Persia and tell the story of cultural exchange in this fascinating empire.
In this episode, Getty Museum director Tim Potts and curators Jeffrey Spier and Sara Cole discuss their exhibition Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World and some of the key objects in the show. The exhibition is on view at the Getty Villa through August 8, 2022.
“When Cunningham passed away, I think in part her reputation was based on her personality, the fact that she had lived so long, the fact that she was full of witty quips, and she wouldn’t let anyone boss her around. But I think in some ways that eclipsed the work.”
Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883, photographer Imogen Cunningham joined a correspondence course for photography as a high schooler after seeing a magazine ad. Over the course of her 70-year career, Cunningham stirred controversy with a nude portrait of her husband, photographed flowers while minding her young children in her garden, captured striking portraits of famous actors and writers for Vanity Fair, and provided insight into the life of nonagenarians when she herself was in her 90s. Although photography was a male-dominated field, Cunningham made a name for herself while also supporting the work of other women artists. Her long, varied career is the subject of the new exhibition Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective at the Getty Center.
In this episode, Getty photographs curator Paul Martineau discusses Cunningham’s trajectory, focusing on key artworks made throughout her life.
“Berengario’s books show animated cadavers and skeletons set in a landscape, often so animated that they’re displaying their own dissecting bodies to the viewer.”
For centuries, doctors and artists have relied on renderings of the human body for their training. Until the Renaissance, anatomy studies were primarily textual, but in the late 15th and early 16th centuries illustrated anatomy books began to be published in greater numbers. Macabre prints of flayed bodies painstakingly depicted muscles, veins, and nerves, and allowed for a far better understanding of the human form. In the 19th and 20th centuries, anatomy studies were also targeted to general audiences, and moralizing flap books with Christian themes, children’s toys with removable body parts, and wax models for museum exhibitions gained popularity. The Getty Research Institute exhibition Flesh and Bones: The Art of Anatomy explores this long history of illustrating the body.
In this episode, scholar and independent curator Monique Kornell, GRI curator of prints and drawings Naoko Takahatake, and GRI research associate Thisbe Gensler survey this history. They move from the 16th century books by anatomist Andreas Vesalius to contemporary artworks by Robert Rauschenberg and Tavares Strachan, explaining the relevance of anatomy studies across time.