Getty Wants a Director Who's Got the Guts to Spend Big

In Jori Finkel’s excellent short profile of James Cuno who now heads the Getty Trust (after a week on the job), there’s this warning to whomever becomes the next director of the Getty Museum: You better be ready to spend some money!

“Making major acquisitions is without doubt one of our greatest opportunities and challenges,” Cuno says, acknowledging that the Getty is one of very few buyers, private or public, that can afford to pay top prices for prized Old Masters or Impressionist paintings (or $45 million for a landscape by Turner, to use a recent example).

The Getty is also one of few museums that does not rely on private collectors for donations. “Seizing opportunities as they come to the market has to be one of our priorities,” he says.

To this end, he seeks one very unusual attribute in a new museum director, a search that he is now beginning. (“I would be hugely frustrated if I weren’t able to make this hire within a year.”) Beyond the usual grounding in art history and leadership skills, his candidate should have “an appetite for risk in acquiring extraordinary works of art” — not a given among leaders in the field.

“It could be frightening for some people,” he explains. “There is a big difference between spending $100,000 on an acquisition, which many museum directors are used to doing, and spending tens of millions of dollars.”

Getty Trust CEO Wraps Up Debut Week (Los Angeles Times)