A Closer Look at Getty's Asian Photo Purchases

Suzanne Muchnic in the LA Times adds some flesh to the recent telegraphed news that the Getty bought some significant works of Chinese Contemporary photography. It turns out the purchases are part of a larger and longer-term effort to see more Asian work in the Getty collection:


In the last three years, the Getty has quietly purchased and received donations of about 150 photographs by Japanese, Chinese and Korean artists. Many other Asian acquisitions are in the pipeline. [ . . . ] “Building our Asian collection is something that I have been very much in favor of,” Keller says. “I think that because we are on the Pacific Rim and we have a huge audience of people of Asian heritage, it’s something we should be doing.

“It did not really become a priority until last year,” she says. “But ever since Michael Brand, who has a background in Indian art, became director of the museum, he and David Bomford, the associate director for collections, have encouraged me to follow this path. We have not been collecting exclusively Asian material. It’s just one vein. But it’s important.”

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are also serious collectors of Asian photography, she says, but the Getty’s approach is different. Instead of assembling a broad view of the field, the Getty is maintaining its practice of collecting selected artists’ work in depth. Every Asian artist added to the Getty’s holding is represented by several images, with others likely to follow. [ . . . ]

“We had a head start with that because Sam Wagstaff’s collection contained work by a few important Japanese photographers of the 1970s,” Keller says, referring to a trove that was part of the museum’s original purchase. Thanks to the museum’s acquisition funds and gifts from its Photographs Council and other supporters, the Getty has acquired 20th and 21st century works by artists such as Kansuke Yamamoto, Hiroshi Hamaya, Issei Suda and Daido Moriyama.

At the Getty, A focus on Asian Photographs (LA Times)