The J. Paul Getty Trust 2016 Report
The Getty Foundation
Deborah Marrow, Director
The Getty Foundation fulfills the philanthropic mission of the Getty Trust by supporting individuals and institutions committed to advancing the greater understanding and preservation of the visual arts in Los Angeles and throughout the world. Through strategic grant initiatives, it strengthens art history as a global discipline, promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the arts. It carries out its work in collaboration with the other Getty programs to ensure that they individually and collectively achieve maximum effect.
Over more than three decades, the Getty Foundation has developed and awarded seven thousand grants in Los Angeles and around the world that support the greater understanding and preservation of the visual arts. A common thread that knits all of these projects together is a desire to make a difference in the fields in which the Getty works: heritage conservation, museums, and art history. In a number of cases, our grantmaking has also been a change agent in the protection of cultural heritage under threat across the globe. The underlying causes of these hazards can vary greatly, from environmental shifts to political conflicts to the natural, yet irreversible, effects of time as humanity’s artifacts age. Regardless of the problems’ origins, the Foundation’s strategic grant initiatives are addressing culture at risk through three critical activities: conserving significant art and architecture; training future stewards to care for this heritage; and bringing together scholars to produce new research that enhances our knowledge of cultural artifacts of the past and present. With this report, we share highlights of recent Getty Foundation grants that are protecting culture at risk on the international stage.
The Getty Foundation has a long history of supporting the conservation of architecture and significant museum collections at an international scale. In both areas, we emphasize research and careful planning before undertaking treatments. When implementation funding is provided, the Foundation seeks and develops model projects that have the potential to benefit the care of other artworks and sites facing similar challenges. Two current strategic initiatives in conservation illustrate this practice: Keeping It Modern and the Panel Paintings Initiative.
Keeping It Modern
Modern architecture is one of the defining forms of the twentieth century. The crowning achievements of this movement, from Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus buildings in Europe to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in New York City and Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia in Latin America have come to symbolize the aspirational twentieth-century ideals of progress, technology, and openness. Yet the architecture that epitomizes the era is increasingly at risk. The experimental materials and novel construction techniques used by many architects and engineers were often untested and have not always performed well over time. In addition, heritage professionals do not always have enough scientific data on the nature and behavior of these materials and systems to develop the necessary protocols for conservation treatment. In response to these threats, the Getty Foundation developed its Keeping It Modern initiative devoted to the conservation of significant twentieth-century architecture around the world.
The first three rounds of Keeping It Modern grants are supporting thirty-three different projects that truly span the globe, with buildings in nineteen different countries across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. Two of these projects are directly related to the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative. Projects funded during the past year have added to the breadth of this initiative, including the first two buildings selected for support that were designed by women—Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027 in Southern France and Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro in Brazil—as well as the first grant in sub-Saharan Africa for a conservation plan for the Children’s Library in Ghana designed by the architecture firm Nickson and Borys.
Nearly all of the Getty grants in this area have concentrated on conservation planning and technical research, with a special focus on materials that are prevalent in modern movement architecture. One example is concrete, which came into use on a much wider scale in the postwar era given its increased availability, relatively low cost, and flexibility to be cast into new forms. Over time the experimental application of this material has led to structural compromises and aesthetic changes that can differ dramatically from the original design and appearance. From Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House to Max Berg’s Centennial Hall in Wrocɫaw, Poland, to Marcel Breuer’s Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota, many Getty grants are supporting technical research into the performance and aging of architectural concrete to produce improved conservation methods that can be shared widely with the field.
Another common material is architectural glass, and this year the Foundation is supporting two new projects that incorporate large panes of dalle de verre stained glass: Wallace Harrison’s First Presbyterian Church in Connecticut and Frederick Gibberd’s Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral in England. Both buildings utilized this technique of embedding panes of brightly colored glass into a concrete matrix and set a new precedent in achieving elegance with cost-effective, pre-fabricated materials. Unfortunately, dalle de verre has proved highly vulnerable to water ingress with aging, so the scientific studies being developed with the Getty’s support at these two sites will provide repair methodologies that can be applied to hundreds of other buildings that feature this type of glass work.
Keeping It Modern has been underway for several years, and the results of early grants are very positive. One important outcome is the development of conservation management plans for many of the buildings being supported by Getty grants. These are comprehensive documents that guide the long-term maintenance of historic sites and are a relatively new practice for the field, such as the Getty-funded conservation management plan that was recently completed for Alvar Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium. Carefully designed by the prominent modern architect as a “medical instrument” for treating tuberculosis, Aalto’s sanatorium had fallen into disuse and was in danger of demolition. Now, thanks to a thorough conservation management plan—the first of its kind in Finland—this landmark building has a new use and strong government support. The plan is forming the basis of a preservation textbook and is already influencing the treatment and care of other historic properties in the country. Similarly, the conservation team of the Centennial Hall in Wrocɫaw was invited by the Polish government to present its conservation management plan at an upcoming conference celebrating the tenth anniversary of the building’s inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These and other Getty-funded conservation management plans are proving their value by saving important buildings for the future, but also by providing model plans that can guide the field as it looks to define and implement a newly emerging standard. Dissemination is critical to achieve this goal, so the Foundation is developing a free, online platform to share all of the technical reports generated through Keeping It Modern.
Panel Paintings Initiative
Old master paintings on wood backings—also known as panel paintings—are among the most cherished artworks in many North American and European collections. Yet many panel paintings pose difficult conservation challenges as their wooden supports warp and crack with age. Today only a handful of international experts worldwide possess the experience and technical expertise to work on the most delicate cases, and many of these individuals are approaching retirement, with few opportunities to prepare the next generation of conservators. In response, the Getty Foundation launched the Panel Paintings Initiative in partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Museum to ensure that a new corps of structural panel paintings conservators is in place before the current experts retire.
Since 2009, the Foundation has been developing and awarding grants to conserve panel paintings of the highest caliber that also include intensive training residencies to pass on the necessary hand skills, aesthetic judgment, and analytical tools needed to care for these artworks. To date, Getty projects have allowed participants to work on some of the most highly visible masterpieces in the history of Western art, including Hubert and Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece (1432), Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve (1507), Pieter Breughel the Elder’s Hunters in the Snow (1565), and Peter Paul Rubens’s Triumph of the Eucharist series (1626), to name a few. During the last fiscal year, work has progressed on several critical conservation grants.
Fifty years ago, on November 4, 1966, the people of Florence suffered a devastating flood that threatened some of the city’s most beloved art and architecture, leaving many works severely damaged. Since that time, nearly all of the surviving artworks have been repaired—all but one. Giorgio Vasari’s Last Supper (1546) is a monumental panel painting that measures more than eight by twenty-one feet. While Vasari is better known as one of the fathers of the discipline of art history through his Lives of the Artists series that chronicled the Italian Renaissance, the Last Supper is an example of his artistic talents, which ranged from painting to architecture and design. After being submerged in water for over twelve hours, Vasari’s painting required immediate separation of its five individual panels to hasten drying. Conservators also applied an emergency paper treatment to the surface to prevent paint from simply peeling off its sodden wood support. For more than four decades, the panels were stored in this state—separated and barely intact—until conservators were confident that they had the right skills to undertake a responsible treatment that could restore the painting’s structural integrity and beauty.
In 2010, a Foundation grant enabled a team of experts at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (OPD) in Florence to tackle this challenging conservation project. The treatment also provided the perfect opportunity to train younger conservators. Working together the team developed a conservation solution based on the structural support system originally devised by Vasari himself, which has stabilized the painting while also allowing the wooden panels to move naturally with standard temperature and humidity fluctuations. The team was able to recover an unanticipated amount of the original painted surface, revealing the artist’s hand in surprising detail. Now that the individual panels have been rejoined with a secure and lasting support, Florentines are returning to public view the last major flood-damaged artwork that remained untreated with a joint exhibition of the OPD and the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce during the city’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the flood.
While work concluded in Florence, conservators in Austria are just beginning the treatment of another important Italian panel painting: Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath (ca. 1600–02) in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. This artwork is one of only two extant paintings by the artist on wood panel, and Caravaggio created this hauntingly beautiful and emotionally evocative scene during his first Neapolitan stay. Unfortunately, the panel is in particularly fragile condition, the result of well-meaning but flawed conservation interventions in the past that shaved the wood support to only a few millimeters thickness—almost as thin as paper. With the Getty’s support, experts at the Kunsthistorisches Museum have completed a careful study of the wooden support and prepared a treatment plan that is now underway. The project requires the removal of an existing cradle, a latticed wooden structure that was attached to the back of the panel to prevent warping but instead proved too rigid and caused harmful cracks and splits. Following the cradle’s removal, the panel must rest before the conservators can determine the next steps, which will include the construction of a new flexible support and the repair of multiple small fractures that disrupt the painted surface. While conservators can never be completely prepared for how artworks change over time, this approach of completing technical study and in-depth planning with minimal but highly-skilled intervention is promoted by the Getty Foundation and helps artworks that are threatened today achieve a more secure tomorrow.
In order to survive natural and man-made dangers, cultural heritage needs informed stewards who can preserve it and help others understand its value. The greatest need is often in places with very important material history where care is forced to take a back seat to active political conflicts or pressing infrastructural needs to meet the demands of fast-growing populations. The following two projects, MOSAIKON and India and the World, are examples of Getty grants that are supporting training to defend culture at risk.
Even before the current wave of conflicts swept across North Africa and the Middle East, there was a key art form of the past in the greater Mediterranean that faced significant threats. Decorative mosaic floors have survived in great numbers in archaeological sites across the region, a material reminder that these areas were once wealthy territories of the Roman Empire. Many have also been removed, or lifted, from their original contexts and stored in museums. These tiled pavements of stone, cut glass, and shells range from intricate geometric patterns to complex figurative scenes, providing a window onto life in the colonies in the ancient world. The sheer number of these artworks, however, makes preservation a challenge. Complicating matters further, there is a lack of training opportunities and resources in the region to provide the restorers who care for Roman mosaics with the necessary skills to ensure routine maintenance, let alone take on more complex treatments. For these reasons, the Getty Foundation joined forces with the Getty Conservation Institute and external partners ICCROM (the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) and ICCM (the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics) to develop MOSAIKON, a regional program dedicated to the conservation of ancient mosaics in the Mediterranean Basin.
The Foundation has concentrated on training grants that target professionals from countries with significant museum collections, including Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia. A key grant project in this effort began this year in Southern France, through a program co-organized by the Atelier de conservation et restauration du musée départemental Arles antique (MDAA) and the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Conservation et Restauration du Patrimoine in Marseille. The training is bringing together a dozen restorers from Algeria, Egypt, and Lebanon for several sustained modules of intense coursework that includes an overview of mosaic history and techniques, mosaic terminology, documentation, site visits to nearby museums, and the study and treatment of several lifted Roman mosaics. The group met at the MDAA in early spring 2016 for their first course and made considerable progress in acquiring new knowledge and skills. Organizers also reported a convivial atmosphere and the beginning of stronger professional ties that can stretch across borders and benefit these professionals in the future. Training continues in fall 2016, with a concentration on more advanced treatment techniques and on the presentation of personal research projects that participants have undertaken in the interim on the mosaic collections at their home institutions. A closing ceremony will include representatives from the organizing institutions and the Getty, as well as government officials from the trainee’s home countries, coming together to promote the program’s international collaboration.
The current fiscal year also saw the completion of a five-year training effort in Italy at the Centro di Conservazione Archeologica (CCA) outside of Rome. Supported by several major grants from the Getty Foundation, the courses were first offered to a group of Syrians who care for the country’s significant collections of ancient mosaics. While in Italy the Syrians formed a cohesive community—working together for concentrated periods of time without the distractions of home—and also had the opportunity to study at nearby archaeological sites, museums, and conservation laboratories. The participants found the course so useful that it was repeated for mosaic restorers from Tunisia, Jordan, and Libya—including a culminating site visit to Turkey to work on Roman mosaics at Ephesus. Upon conclusion of the training, the thirty participants have returned to their respective countries and are staying in touch with one another and sharing their work through social media. They are also using the skills they acquired to improve the care of lifted mosaics in museums and other contexts and have begun to train others back home. One compelling example is the Syrians’ application of MOSAIKON training to repair the mosaic façade of the early eighth-century Umayyad Mosque in Damascus that was damaged by a mortar shell. It is a chilling reminder of the considerable challenges these professionals face back home. Nevertheless, the success of the training has left the MOSAIKON partners optimistic for the improved care of this heritage going forward.
India and the World
The encyclopedic museum has collections that cover multiple traditions and time periods, offering a compelling and productive forum for cross-cultural comparison. Yet this model is rather uncommon in museums outside of North America and Europe. This past year the Foundation supported a British Museum pilot training program to a group of global museum professionals, “Creating Museums of World Stories.” The workshop was held at the Chhatrapatī Shivaji Mahārāj Vastu Sangrahālay museum (CSMVS) in Mumbai as part of a broad educational initiative to consider the encyclopedic museum model—with its emphasis on transnational storytelling and the interrelatedness of the human experience—beyond Europe and North America. Through a series of discussions and group exercises, the training workshop focused on the development of hypothetical exhibitions that could spread the values of universal art museums. This forum also allowed participants from numerous countries around the world to network with one another, ensuring that the international debate around the future of museums includes voices from across the globe. The Getty’s support allowed nearly one hundred scholars—mainly from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East—to take part in the meeting.
The training workshop was modeled on the British Museum’s successful International Training Programme (ITP), which was celebrating its tenth anniversary in Mumbai. The ITP fosters conversations across international boundaries, encouraging skills-sharing between museum professionals from across the world from very different institutions and backgrounds. It is a platform for mutual learning, discussion, and collaboration—intentionally designed as an open place where networks could flourish, rather than a prescriptive training course. This same methodology was applied for the “Creating Museums of World Stories” workshop, allowing ample time for group dialogue and information exchange.
The success of the training program has led the British Museum to utilize the workshop outcomes for the development of an exhibition with the CSMVS that will open in fall 2017. India and the World is timed to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of India’s independence, and the exhibition will present the country’s substantial contributions to global culture in the context of world history. Inspired by the British Museum/BBC project, A History of the World in 100 Objects, the exhibition will feature artifacts from Indian collections alongside objects from other parts of the world drawn from the British Museum’s unparalleled collections. It is hoped that this project, and the Getty-funded training that made it possible, will inspire similar exhibitions in other cosmopolitan cities outside of Europe and North America that connect local objects to global themes.
The act of interpretation is also an act of preservation. New scholarship creates greater awareness, which is a powerful tool for advocacy and protection in today’s complex geopolitical landscape. It is in this spirit that Foundation grants for art historical research contribute to saving culture at risk, and our primary endeavor in this area is the Connecting Art Histories initiative.
Connecting Art Histories
The discipline of art history as we know it today developed in the nineteenth century as a practice centered in North America and Europe, with increasing growth in other parts of the world over the last several decades. Yet there is still uneven participation in the international dialogue about the history of art because many scholars live in countries where their scholarly production is stymied by difficult economic or political circumstances. This imbalance leaves many global artistic traditions vulnerable and threatens the future vitality of discipline. The Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative was created to expand the international exchange of ideas about art through various research and teaching programs. Grantmaking has initially concentrated on bringing together scholars for extended periods of study in two priority regions: the greater Mediterranean and Latin America. To date, Connecting Art Histories projects have involved more than one thousand participants from seventy different countries.
While the program is not focused solely on interpreting culture at risk, it has emerged as a common research theme among Connecting Art Histories projects. This is particularly true for the study of heritage produced during the medieval period in the Eastern Mediterranean, a time and place that was characterized by a complex melting pot of divergent political, ideological, and religious beliefs, coexisting in relative amity. In the modern era, much of this tolerance has been eroded by sectarianism and nationalism, and multivalent objects whose style and meaning encompass different cultural traditions are in danger of politically motivated destruction. A powerful example is the medieval Armenian capital of Ani, a site located in present-day Turkey in the Eastern province of Kars that has been visited by Connecting Art Histories research teams.
Today Ani is a series of ruins dotting a remote, desolate landscape. But in the medieval era during the tenth and eleventh centuries, this settlement was a bustling hub along the ancient Silk Road that nearly 100,000 residents called home. According to UNESCO, which recently inscribed the site on its World Heritage list this past year, Ani’s multitude of religious, civic, and military buildings offer a “comprehensive overview of the evolution of medieval architecture through examples of almost all the different architectural innovations of the region between the seventh and thirteenth centuries CE.” Against all odds these precious examples have survived, withstanding waves of conquerors—including Seljuk Turks, Georgians, and Mongols—and various natural disasters, from earthquakes to storms. Yet they are not without threats in the present day, as political and religious conflicts intensify in central Eurasia.
Two different Connecting Art Histories projects have visited Ani, signaling the continued value of the site to contemporary scholars in understanding the past. An ambitious research program undertaken by the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence involved over one hundred scholars from around the world who traveled there as part of a larger study of artistic connections among cultures in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent from late antiquity to early modernity. By studying the movement of cultural objects between cities like Ani along key trade routes, the group’s research offers compelling proof that globalization is not only a twenty-first century phenomenon. Cultural hybridity is identified and celebrated as a fact of life rather than a problem that needs to be solved. In addition, the expansive research team included younger scholars from over a dozen countries—many of whose governments are at odds—who developed new professional networks that can help them break free from the limiting nationalist discourses that have held art history back, both in this part of the world and in others. During the past year, organizers have concentrated on consolidating the team’s work into a comprehensive scholarly publication that will promote a transnational and transcultural understanding of the art of this time period.
More recently a group of scholars organized by the Courtauld Institute of Art visited Ani in summer 2016 as part of the Getty-funded project, “Crossing Frontiers: Christians and Muslims and their Art in Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus.” Sites like Ani are central to their study of monuments from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries that were forged from the collision of four worlds: the Christian cultures of Anatolia and the Caucasus, the Turkic cultures of Anatolia, the Arabic culture of Syria that reached into northern Mesopotamia, and the Persian culture of Iranian Azerbaijan. Each of these societies left their marks on the region’s surviving heritage, primarily through architecture but also through portable precious objects such as ceramics, metalwork, and manuscripts. Although these artworks are now increasingly divided by modern frontiers, the medieval cultures that generated them were overlapping and interdependent. Through field research at sites such as Ani and visits to museum collections in Turkey and Armenia, the group is reuniting the study of this heritage by demonstrating that objects can participate in multiple art histories across the region and that the study of individual monuments is more enlightened when they are examined from multiple points of view.
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As all of these examples have demonstrated, a key outcome of the Foundation’s grants to support conservation, training, and research around the world is the protection of our cultural heritage. We believe in preserving monuments and artworks of the past and in preparing the professionals who care for them to continue to do so in the future. And we believe that a framework of interpretation that acknowledges the coexistence of differing cultural traditions is critical if we hope to save humanity’s creative endeavors for the enjoyment and understanding of generations to come. This is just a taste of our work in the past year.