Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 – 10:47 AM
By Victoria Talbot
A new installation at the Getty Center reveals the life and legacy of icon J. Paul Getty, an avid collector of art, antiques and antiquities for which he founded the Getty Villa and ultimately, the Getty Center.
Getty was a controversial figure during his lifetime, known not only for his great fortune and business acumen, but also for his miserliness. He famously installed a pay phone at his Sutton Place estate in England.
Born in 1892, he successfully drilled his first oil well Nov. 28, 1912 in Haskell Oklahoma. The Nancy Taylor Oil Well No. 1 was a crucial factor in Getty’s financial success. He invested widely in the Middle East, learning to speak Arabic and expanding oil production throughout the region. He moved to England and became a prominent Anglophile, conducting his business from his estate and entertaining Saudi royalty and the likes of the Rothschilds.
Getty began collecting art in the 1930s with an eye to under-appreciated value that he applied to his business interests, focusing on Greek and Roman sculpture and 18th century European art.
The Getty ranch house in Malibu was opened to the public in 1954, converting part of the grounds to a small museum. Eventually outgrowing the building,Getty built a museum modeled on Roman Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Though he never saw the building in person, he supervised every detail of the construction from his home in England.
Getty died in 1976, leaving his entire fortune to the small Getty Museum. Suddenly, the Getty Villa became the world’s wealthiest museum overseen by the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Today it is the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organization dedicated to the visual arts. The Trust has four programs: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Research Insitute, Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Foundation.
The new installation will chronicle, with photographs, videos, oral histories and archival material, primarily from the Getty Research Institute, in interactive exhibits that tell the story of Getty’s life, accented with a few of the objects he collected through his life.
“Getty once wrote ‘The beauty one can find in art is one of the pitifully few real and lasting products of human endeavor’ I think even he would be surprised at how lasting and powerful an impact his endeavor has had,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “More than two million visitors come to the Getty each year.”
The Getty Center is open Tuesday-Friday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays 10-9. Admission is free, parking is $15, and $10 after 3 p.m. Visit www.getty.edu for more information.